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Brexit - An Employment Armageddon?

Brexit - An Employment Armageddon?

The unthinkable happened yesterday – at least for 48% of UK voters – the UK has voted to exit from the European Union.
The differences in voting across the constituent parts of the UK are a stark reminder of how diverse our country is. Uncertainty is likely to become the norm for quite a while. But from an employment perspective what does this vote mean?

The Impact of Europe

The majority of our employment laws now derive from Europe but what is often overlooked is that the UK was the forerunner in some of these matters and in other cases has introduced law which goes beyond the European requirements.

  • National Minimum Wage – this is a UK statute and did not derive from Europe.
  • Disability Discrimination - the UK introduced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to prohibit discrimination and gave additional protection to disabled people before Europe did.
  • Maternity and Family Friendly Rights – although derived from Europe the protections and rights we give to parents far exceed the minimum requirements from Europe.
  • Gender Equality – the Government’s strive to end gender inequality with the introduction of gender pay gap reporting for employers with 250 employees or more is not being driven by Europe and will continue.
  • Protection of Employment on the Transfer of a business (TUPE) – although the rights employees have on the transfer of a business derive from Europe, the UK goes further than the European requirements and gives protection to employees where services are being transferred such as in an outsourcing or retendering process. The UK government looked at removing some of these additional protections (called “gold plating”) but chose not to do so. That may now change but we will have to wait to see.
  • One of the current areas where we may see change is in relation to Working Time and the decisions we have had from the European Court of Justice on accrual of holidays during sick leave and of course the calculation of holiday pay in relation to overtime, commission, bonuses and other payments. As Brexit will mean that the UK is no longer bound by such decisions going forward it will be interesting to see if UK courts and tribunals would take a different approach. The UK has also always argued for and maintained an opt-out from the maximum working week requirements allowing employees to work longer hours if they choose.

Any Need for Panic?

Brexit will not happen immediately and there is no need for employees or employers to panic. So I don’t think there will be an employment Armageddon with employees losing all the rights they have achieved over many years. Whilst Brexit will mean we are free to set our own employment laws, outwith the European agenda, it is unlikely that the fundamental protections employees currently have will change significantly - although of course these things are always driven by the political agenda of the party in power at any given time!

Noele McClelland is a Partner and Head of Employment Law. We are always delighted to talk without obligation about whether we might meet your needs. Contact Noele on the details below.

Posted by Noele McClelland


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