What could a ‘Brexit’ mean for employment law?


If June’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union signals an end to our 43-year relationship, it will have a significant impact on business.

A large proportion of our employment laws come from Europe including Working Time regulations, duties to agency workers and family leave. If we do ‘Brexit’, what would it mean for employment regulations? Amber Bate, an award winning lawyer with FBC Manby Bowdler, explains:

“If the UK votes to leave the EU, technically the Government could repeal all laws that have come from Europe but, in reality, whether that will happen is a different matter. In any case, nothing would happen immediately as the UK has to give two years notice of its intention to leave the EU.

“If that is the path that the country takes, what effect could it have on some of our major employment laws?

Holidays and working time
I can’t imagine any Government making the decision to change the right to statutory paid leave – it wouldn’t go down well with anyone! But they 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.

Parental leave and pay
I wouldn’t expect to see many changes around the existing laws around family and parental leave, which some from both UK and EU laws. The new shared parental leave and rights for flexible working are both homegrown anyway.

The 2010 Equality Act is what’s 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.

Agency workers
The laws around Agency Workers Regulations 2010 are perhaps one of those most likely to face change following a Brexit. They are complex and not popular with employers so could face changes in a post Europe era.

Free movement of workers
If you employ foreign nationals, what would happen if we were no longer part of the EU and their right to live or work in the UK was withdrawn? It’s unlikely they’ll all be told to pack up and go home and there may be an amnesty that allows them to stay. One option could be to introduce an immigration system that allows non UK nationals to work here for a certain period. Only time – and a referendum - will tell.”

To speak to an employment specialist, contact FBC Manby Bowdler on 0800 611 6144. 

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