HM Insights

Brexit: An Employment Lawyer’s Perspective

With the UK deciding to leave the EU, the future is uncertain for just what this will mean for the UK as a whole.  It is unlikely that the decision will cause immediate change in employment law policy within the UK and it is likely that many EU laws will be retained. 

Brexit Employment Law

Westminster is still coming to terms as to what Brexit will mean for the UK, and it is likely that withdrawal negotiations will take many months, if not years, to reach a conclusion. 

The type of relationship that the UK will have with the EU following Brexit is unclear.  With trade deals still to be established, there may be cause for EU employment law to form part of those trade deals.

It is important to remember that whereas many UK employment laws originated from the EU; they have become workplace norms.  For example, most protection against discrimination came from the EU.  It would be politically very difficult for a government to remove employment law protections which have become entrenched in the workplace.

What does this mean for business?

For businesses, the key concern will be the degree of uncertainty caused by the EU Referendum.  There is no guidance for employers, or employees, on how to deal with Brexit.  Many questions arise as to the implications of what changes will be made following Brexit. 

From an employment lawyer’s point of view, it is unlikely that the decision to leave the EU will lead to any immediate changes in employment law.  It would seem sensible for the government to try to retain many EU-derived laws and target only the most controversial areas. 

There has been much discussion as to the ‘gold plating’ of EU legislation, and it is likely that the government might tackle areas of law which have been perceived to be a hindrance to the business community.  Examples of such legislation might be the Agency Workers Regulations or, indeed, the TUPE Regulations. 

On a practical level, Brexit could have an impact on terms and conditions of employment, employee benefits and resourcing (particularly given anticipated changes in free movement and immigration rules) and may, as a result of this, trigger the need for organisational change. 

For example, many industries are dependent on labour provided by EU economic migrants.  For those employers who work on pan-European level, the impact of Brexit is likely to be greater. 

What next for UK employment law?

Although it is unknown what the full extent of Brexit will mean for UK employment law, it is likely that the status quo will be maintained for the foreseeable future.  Ultimately, it is difficult to guess what the effect of Brexit will be as the terms have still to be determined. 

In the meantime, it is important for employers to remember that the laws which they have to abide by are the same as the laws which were in place on 23 June 2016.  There has been no change to legislation as yet, and any change in legislation will be subject to the usual parliamentary considerations. 

If you would like to discuss any aspect of employment law, please contact one of our employment team.