What Are the Likely Effects of Brexit on UK Employment Law?

December 16, 2020


With the transition period coming to an end on 31 December 2020, the UK will no longer be subject to EU law and will be able to make changes to the laws that have been shaped by our EU membership.

Much of UK employment law has been derived from the EU, so decisions will rest with the UK Government as to whether it should retain, amend or repeal such legislation.

The change to legislation is likely to come from social or political influence rather than a legal need for the change. However, given that many rights under UK employment law go further than the requirements under EU directives, it may be the case that any changes will be limited.

Here are our predictions for the areas of law that may be subject to change:

  1. The Working Time Directive 1998 – It is unlikely that the UK will radically reform workers’ rights in relation to working time and holidays, as this would be highly unpopular with workers and unions. However, the UK is currently the only country to have an opt-out in relation to the 48-hour working week, so we could see this cap on working hours removed. We are also likely to see an overhaul of the way holiday pay works, as this is currently a complicated area due to the effects of several European Court of Justice decisions under the Working Time Directive.

  2. Agency Worker Rights – This is one area of law that could see a complete overhaul as the Agency Worker Regulations 2010 are seen as complex and unpopular. For example, big businesses are likely to lobby for changes to the rules giving agency workers the same rights as permanent staff following a 12-week qualifying period, which are perceived as burdensome for employers.

  3. TUPE – A change to the rules on business transfers could also be possible, as there are a number of aspects of TUPE that can be difficult to apply in practice. For example, the rules could be relaxed to allow employers who take on new staff under TUPE to harmonise those employees’ terms and conditions with those of their existing staff.

  4. The Equality Act 2010 – A complete repeal of the Equality Act is unlikely, as the Government has already indicated that it does not want to water down workers’ protections from discrimination. However, there are suggestions that a financial cap may be imposed on discrimination claims, similar to what we currently have for unfair dismissal claims, to ease the risks to employers of an unlimited award in such claims.



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