How has Brexit impacted employment law?

What is the current position?

As of now, April 2019, nothing has changed. Present legislations and case laws continue to apply.

What changes will there be to employment law on Brexit?

Whether UK can quit from current European law requirements in the future or not will totally depend on future relationship with Europe. There may be trade arrangements which may involve accepting some or all of employment legislations.

Even if the UK can afford to diverge from European employment regulations, the changes will not be made with immediate effect due:

  • Most of the European employment law has been in effect through UK legislation which is said to remain in force even after Brexit unless it is rightfully amended.
  • Any changes to primary legislations need an approval from Parliament and the Government of that time needs to consider whether such reforms are politically desirable. The UK has started expecting some sort of workplace protection and wholesale changes like discrimination laws etc.
  • However, a myriad of employment rights including unfair dismissal and rights to minimum wages do not come from Europe.
  • In many other cases, UK provides protection beyond the EU legislations like maternity benefits. A withdrawal from Europe is hence unlikely to bring about a change in government policies.
  • Internal policies of employers and their contracts of employments reflect EU rights in context to sickness absence, working hours and work opportunities. Reducing these entitlements could turn out to be difficult not just from a legal perspective but also from the perspective of employee relations.

Key employment rights – what might change?

If the UK can move away from EU employment law, there are some employment rights which may be affected.

Key rightPotential impact of Brexit
Unfair dismissalUK-based right – does not come from the EU: Brexit will cause no direct impact.
Minimum wageUK-based right – does not come from the EU: Brexit will cause no direct impact.
Unauthorised deductions from wagesUK-based right – does not come from the EU: Brexit will cause no direct impact.
Statutory redundancy payUK-based right – does come stem from the EU: Brexit will cause no direct impact.
Paternity leave UK-based right– does not come from the EU: Brexit will have no direct impact.
Shared parental leaveUK-based right – does not come from the EU: Brexit will cause no direct impact.
Flexible workingUK-based right – does not come from the EU: Brexit will cause no direct impact.
Pregnancy and maternityMixture of rights based on EU and UK-These rights go beyond the usual EU minimum. While a whole sole change seems unlikely, there may be a change in present entitlement of workers going on maternity leave.
Parental leaveEU based rights provide upto 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child in UK and can be taken till the child turns 18. Considering the fact that the leave is unpaid, the age limit was recently increased. It does not seem likely to be a target for potential changes.
Working timeThe UK has a well known provision that provides a 48 hour work week and the future government may be happy to remove this limit all together. There may also be amendments to rule like considering travelling time as working hour.
Rights on insolvencyThis is a EU based right that an employee can claim a certain amount of money from secretary of state in case the employer becomes insolvent.
Part-time workersThe EU based right protects part time workers from less favourable treatment as compared to full time workers. People arguing for red tape and flexible labour hours may claim such treatment often amounted to sex discrimination since most part time employees are females.
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