Employment Law & HR News & Updates.

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UK- a free bird?

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On the 23rd June 2016 the referendum result meant the 43 years of nurturing has come to an end and the UK is free to fly. But what does this mean in relation to UK employment law?

A substantial component of UK employment law is grounded in the EU law. The EU law sets a minimum standard below which the domestic employment law must not fall, for example health and safety rules, equal pay rights, a statutory right to 20 paid annual holidays, max 48 hours work a week etc. A withdrawal from the EU means the UK employment rights currently enjoyed are not guaranteed once the UK officially notifies Brussels of its wish to leave the EU.

Once Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked both sides have two years to negotiate the terms of their separation. Theresa May has confirmed this will be done by March 2017, which means by mid-2019 (depending on the precise agreed dates) the UK will regain its parliamentary sovereignty and will no longer be required to transpose the EU law into domestic law.

However, it seems highly unlikely that an exit from the EU will revolutionise UK laws. The government plans to enact a Great Repeal Bill. The principle of the Bill is to repeal the EU Communities Act 1972, in other words to the end the primacy of EU law in the UK simultaneously incorporating EU law into UK law; after which the government will decide which parts to keep, change or tweak.

Whilst tweaks are likely, changes are limited as the UK government, despite required to follow EU laws has usually been self-governing. For example, although the Working Time Directive sets the standard to 20 annual holidays, the UK government chose to increase this entitlement to 28 days by including the bank holidays. Similarly, in relation to the 48 hours’ worker’s working week limit, the UK transposed this with an option to opt out. These are perfect examples illustrating the unlikeliness of change post Brexit.

Likewise, the laws on discrimination are unlikely to change considering the Race Relations Act 1965 pre-dates the UK's membership of the EU. Therefore, tweaks, if any, are likely to be limited to, for example new caps on compensation or the overall award, or abolishment of damages for injury to feelings etc.

TUPE is another UK law derived from an EU directive but the UK government introduced the domestic concept of "service provision change" to apply to the contracting out, in and change of service provider. Therefore, it is difficult to see that having extended the EU laws through choice rather than compulsion that the UK would then row back from this post Brexit.  

Although it is unlikely, the government is free to legislate as it sees fit. But the extent of its power is largely dependent on the political and economic terms of the UK future legal relationship with the EU and on the Government which is in power at the time.

Employment Lawyers Maidenhead, Henley, Slough, London

If you’re an employee or an employer who is unsure as to the implications Brexit could have on employment contract or require other employment law advice contact our specialists now for a free 30 minutes’ consultation.

Written by Anu Kaur Soni – Employment Law Paralegal at Kalra Legal Group.

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