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Brexit Q&A: How might Brexit affect employment law in the UK?

08 March 2019

If there is a ‘Deal-Brexit’, it is envisaged that there will be a transitional period from 29 March to 31 December 2020. What happens during that transitional period will very much depend on what deal we go out on.

If there is a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, the UK will simply leave the EU, with no transitional period.

Whichever way we leave the EU, we do know that, under to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, at 11pm on 29 March (or whatever later agreed date) all existing EU employment law will automatically become primary UK legislation, in the exact same form it currently exists. As such, the Government can’t simply repeal or amend EU law, but rather, Parliament will have to approve any changes that the Government wants to make, as it does for all existing UK legislation.

It seems that the likelihood of major changes happening in the next few years will be relatively small, as employment law barely features on the political agenda at the moment, and hasn’t for some time. Plus, for certain EU laws, the UK has actually exceeded EU rights, for example holiday and maternity leave allowance.

Brexit is very unlikely to have an impact rights such as unfair dismissal, the National Minimum Wage, shared parental leave and flexible working as these are all rights that stem from the UK, not EU law.

There is a chance, however, that we might see changes post-Brexit to some of the more ‘controversial’ EU-based rights such as the 48 hour working week limit, the inclusion of overtime and commission in the calculation of holiday pay, the ability to carry over accrued but unused holiday after a period of sickness or maternity leave, and so on, but there seems to be a lack of political motivation to do so in the immediate future.

There have been calls for the government to continue to guarantee workers rights in line with future EU legislation, particularly legislation which the UK has voted for, but is yet to implemented (eg. the Work Life Balance Directive and the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive). Theresa May has said that MPs will be given a vote on whether the UK should adopt new EU laws, to keep UK worker and employment rights in line with those on the continent. This vote is due to take place on 12 March, so watch this space.

If you wish to discuss how Brexit may affect your business, please contact any of the lawyers on 01242 514000 or find their contact details on our website at www.willans.co.uk/people/.

Jenny is an associate solicitor in our Legal 500-rated employment law team. She advises clients from SMEs to national organisations on the full range of employment-related matters, including TUPE, contractual matters and defending employee relations. Contact Jenny at jenny.hawrot@willans.co.uk or call 01242 514000.

 

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Jenny Hawrot LLB (Hons)
Senior associate, solicitor
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Jenny Hawrot
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