How might Brexit affect employment rights?

March 6, 2018


Although we have begun to see some indications of how some of our long-established employment laws could start to change after Brexit, this will hinge on any deal which the UK makes with the EU.

Practically speaking, the first thing that will happen on exit day is that all EU law which currently binds the UK will be automatically converted into UK law, under the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which is currently passing through Parliament.

After that, it is intended that Parliament will then be able to start chopping and changing those laws as it sees fit. (How exactly this will work in practice is another question, given the controversy surrounding the current version of the Withdrawal Bill.)

As for how far the Government (and subsequent Governments) in the UK will be able to go to change (or take away) workers’ rights which exist throughout the EU, this is likely to turn on whether or not the UK is able to reach a “deal” with the EU by exit day.

If we strike a deal, the EU wants this to include a commitment from the UK to carry on adhering to the same values and employment models we have been following since we joined the EU. At the very least, this looks likely to be the case during any post-Brexit “transition period”, which will probably also see the UK continuing to be bound by European Court of Justice (ECJ) decisions – so we may not see many changes to existing laws in the first two years.

However, if we do not strike a deal, then the UK will be much freer to amend its employment laws as it likes after exit day. Current indications from the Prime Minister and some senior ministers are that there are no plans to take away existing EU-derived employment rights. For example, Brexit Secretary David Davis said in a speech in February that he wanted the UK to lead a “race to the top” after Brexit in terms of the regulation of workplace, rather than a race to the bottom. However, other ministers – including Michael Gove and Boris Johnson – have hinted that they would like to see some regulations loosened or removed.

Regardless of current intentions, it will be difficult for later governments to keep some of our less-liked employment laws as they are now when faced with pressure from businesses and no longer subject to the EU directives or the scrutiny of the ECJ.

If this is the case, the first to go under the knife may well be the Working Time Regulations (which Michael Gove said in December he would like to see scrapped) and the Agency Workers’ Regulations, both of which are unpopular with many businesses. These laws could be amended instead of scrapped, but in employment law even small changes can make a huge difference to employment practices and relations.

The next few months will give us a better indication of what to expect, but in one way or another, we are likely to see our employment law landscape significantly change in coming years.

If you would like more information on this or a related topic, please contact the Employment and HR team.

Contact Our Team
Catherine Burke
View Profile
Damian Phillips
View Profile
Fflur Jones
Managing Partner
View Profile
Gareth Wedge
View Profile
Mark Rostron
View Profile
Nick O’Sullivan
View Profile
Owen John
View Profile
Rhodri Lewis
View Profile
Stephen Thompson
View Profile

I have worked with Darwin Gray for a number of years and the level of service, professionalism and timely response is second to none. I would highly recommend Darwin Gray to any business.”

Becs Beslee
Dice FM Ltd

Darwin Gray have provided us with a first-class service for many years now. They really take the time to understand our business and develop relationships which results in advice and support that is contextualised and effective.”

Rebecca Cooper
ACT Training

We have worked with Darwin Gray for several years and have always found their services and advice to be first class.”

Karen Gale
Stepping Stones Group

An extremely professional and sincere company who make time for your queries and understand the need to break down certain facts and information to ensure everything is understood perfectly. I would highly recommend the company to anyone looking for any type of legal advice”

Gwawr Booth
Portal Training Ltd

PSS has worked with Darwin Gray for many years. We have always received an excellent service. Prompt and professional advice and support.”

Ledia Shabani
Property Support Services UK Ltd

We have used several departments within DG recently and we have been very pleased with an effective, efficient and down to earth service. Very happy thus far and I expect that we will continue to use DG.”

Guto Bebb
Farmers’ Union of Wales

Darwin Gray offer us truly superb services. Very professional, quick and services available bilingually which is very important to us, highly recommend.”

Iwan Hywel
Mentrau Iaith Cymru

My “go to” in urgent and time sensitive cases for direction, support and advice. The team are quick to respond to calls or emails for advice and support on all matters. Always explain complex matters in a way a lay person can easily understand.”

Margot Adams
Guarding UK Ltd