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Brexit – Employment law implications

By August 31, 2016January 29th, 2021Employment for Business

Workers ‘Could Lose Rights’ In Wake Of Brexit, Labour MP Warns

Since the EU referendum outcome was announced in June there has been a lot of speculation over how this will affect laws which have originated from the EU. There continues to be a great deal of speculation over which laws will stay and which will go.Yesterday it was reported in the media that the former Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna has recently written to Theresa May seeking assurances that all employment rights derived from EU law will remain in place. He went on to state that he has been informed “there is a whole swathe of your rights at work, employment law, that will fall away”. Some will interpret these comments as being part of an agenda aimed at applying political pressure to Theresa May and the Conservative government whereas others will see it as an attempt to raise the profile of Vote Leave Watch, a grassroots campaign “dedicated to holding the Vote Leave campaign and their allies to account for the overblown, misleading claims they made during the UK’s 2016 referendum on our membership of the European Union.”There will inevitably be changes but the fact of the matter is that many EU employment laws are so firmly entrenched in the UK that it would be extremely difficult to extinguish them completely.Take for instance the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2014 (TUPE). The government has already consulted over repealing the section relating to service provision changes which applies where a business outsources a function (security or catering for example) to a third party or where it chooses to award the contract to another party or take it back inhouse. The outcome was not to make changes in order to avoid creating uncertainty for business.The Working Time Regulations 1998 create various rights for workers in the UK the most popular being the right to 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave. Any attempt to reduce this right would face huge opposition by the majority of the British public.There will inevitably be changes however given that there are certain obligations placed on the UK from Europe which are unpopular with many. What will be interesting to see however is whether the government will listen to businesses or the British workforce given that usually what is unpopular with one is not with the other. Recent decisions for instance requiring employers to take into account overtime and commission when calculating holiday pay and allowing workers to take their annual leave again if they fall ill during their original period of leave are hugely unpopular with employers.There is nothing wrong in attempts to seek assurances from the government about its plans. However, as there is a two year notice period in order to leave the EU it is unlikely any final decisions have yet been taken. Furthermore, some of the examples being referred to as being at risk are simply unrealistic. Changes to the 48 hour week, Agency Worker Regulations and the ability to harmonise terms and conditions of employment following a TUPE transfer are all possibilities but the wholesale removal of discrimination legislation which has been in place for a generation is inconceivable.In the long term employment law in this country will certainly look different to how it does at present and under a Conservative government one would expect many of the changes are likely to be in favour of employers. The problem is that many continue to speculate about changes which are highly unlikely to happen.

Russell Brown

Author Russell Brown

Russell is a Partner and Head of Glaisyers' Employment Team.

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