Employment Law and Brexit

With the deadline for Brexit looming, in this article we explore what changes will take place to employment law when we leave.

Whilst the UK may opt to diverge from EU employment law, changes are unlikely to be immediate on the point of Brexit, nor extensive, because:

  1. Most EU employment law has already been brought into effect via UK legislation. Therefore, until such legislation is amended, the law will remain as it is. Even after Brexit, Parliament will need to make any such changes, so politically, any reforms made will also need to be popular.
  2. Many rights, including the minimum wage, do not originate from EU law.
  3. In some instances, UK law is more extensive than EU law, such as maternity leave and the right to 5.6 weeks’ holiday, which is greater than the EU’s four-week minimum.

Here are some rights based in UK law, on which Brexit will have no immediate impact:

  • Minimum wage
  • Unauthorised deductions from wages
  • Statutory redundancy pay
  • Paternity leave
  • Shared parental leave
  • Unfair dismissal
  • Industrial action
  • Flexible working

What rights could be affected?

Working Time is currently an EU law based right. We in the UK have opt-out provisions in relation to the 48-hour working week. This limit could be removed altogether and, following recent case law, there may be changes to include some on-call and travelling time to be counted as working time.

Pregnancy and maternity rights are based in both UK and EU law. In fact, UK rights go further than the EU minimum, providing 52 weeks’ maternity leave as opposed to the EU minimum of 14 weeks. Although significant changes are unlikely and would be controversial, some elements of the right may change, for example, the ability of workers on maternity leave to carry over unused holiday entitlement to another leave year.

Parental leave is also currently an EU law right, which provides up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave for each child. Whilst in the UK it can be taken up to a child’s 18th birthday, it remains an unpaid right and this is unlikely to change after Brexit.

Discrimination is currently protected under both UK and EU law. The UK had protection against sex, race and disability discrimination, but EU law has extended these rights much further. Whilst the law itself is unlikely to be changed, there may be some effort to limit compensation, which is not currently allowed under EU law, similar to that for unfair dismissal.

Holidays and holiday pay are rights derived from EU law. We are fortunate in the UK to have a greater basic holiday entitlement exceeding the EU minimum, being 5.6 weeks’ holiday, rather than the EU’s minimum of four weeks. However, depending on the Government of the day, rights such as the current entitlement of workers on long-term sick or maternity leave to carry-over unused holiday entitlement to another leave year, could be curbed. The calculation of holiday pay and factors like commission and overtime may also be changed.

If you have concerns about the impact of Brexit on your workforce, or would like further advice on your employment rights, please get in touch with us today on 0203 146 3549 / [email protected]

Disclaimer

All our articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information provided.

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