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What does Brexit mean for employers?

06/07/2016

European laws were created because you couldn't have a single trading market, without rules to govern how it operated.

Over the last 43 years, the UK has shaped and signed up to a huge swathe of EU legislation covering everything from health & safety, industrial and agricultural trade and of course, employment law.

Amber Bate, an employment lawyer with award-winning law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, has been looking into what leaving the EU would mean for employers

The honest answer is that until a deal is negotiated, no-one knows for sure... but what we do know is that our clients, particularly those in the manufacturing sector, remain focused on building their business. And if they are to plan ahead, they need some clarity on what regulations will be remaining or leaving along with the UK after this divorce is done.

Although technically Parliament can now repeal all laws that have come from Europe, whether, in reality, that will happen is a different matter.

A large proportion of our employment laws come from Europe including Working Time regulations, duties to agency workers and family leave. There will be a lot of fear around rights being removed, but rights for workers do change regularly in employment law anyway, so we don't expect any dramatic changes immediately.

Statutory paid leave is probably here to stay, but the Government may decide to look at removing the limit on working hours or look at issues like people accruing holiday while on sick leave. Some of this may be popular with employers.

I wouldn’t expect to see many variations to the existing laws around family and parental leave, which originate in both UK and EU regulations. The new shared parental leave and rights for flexible working are both homegrown anyway and our domestic laws often give more generous rights than required by EU directives.

The 2010 Equality Act is what’s known as primary legislation in the UK so any move out of Europe wouldn’t change this. The Government might look at placing a financial cap on claims for discrimination compensation or introduce a positive discrimination law to encourage under represented groups into jobs. It can’t do either at the moment due to EU constraints.

But the laws around Agency Workers Regulations 2010 are perhaps one of those most likely to face change following an exit from the EU. They are complex and not popular with employers.

What we do know is that the EU is already saying the UK cannot have free trade without the free movement of workers. And what about foreign nationals from the EU already employed here? It is very unlikely they will lose their right to live or work in the UK in the short-term. There may be an amnesty that allows them to stay or another option could be to introduce an immigration system that allows non UK nationals to work here for a certain period.

But in reality, the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, regardless of whether they are in employment, are not guaranteed and will now be part of the negotiation. Businesses, and the 2.15 million migrant workers from the EU they employ, may be waiting some time to find out.

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