Brexit, the EU and UK Employment law

Archive 01.07.2016

So what now for UK employment law?

The results of the referendum have sent shockwaves nationally and internationally.

It is still too early to predict what will happen with regard to UK employment law. The EU has influenced UK employment legislation and helped to shape our legal framework in areas such as family friendly practices and working hours. EU case law has laid down numerous legal precedents which may contradict with UK law in the longer term. Here are just some of the areas of employment law that could be affected by Brexit:

Working hours

This European Working Time Directive states the minimum number of holiday for workers, rest periods and the maximum amount of working time. In the UK, the principles are covered by the Working Time Regulations 1998. Employees cannot work more than 48 hours a week under the Regulations and an employee who wishes to work more needs to opt-out.

It would be surprising if minimum annual leave entitlements were to change. However the maximum of 48 hours a week could be reviewed and the administrative burden of associated time-keeping records.

Other elements that could be revisited are the accrual of annual leave whilst on long-term sick leave and the calculation of holiday pay.

Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE)

In the current business climate where acquisitions and outsourcing are common place, TUPE could be reviewed with the possibility of making TUPE processes less onerous for employers. For example, the harmonisation of terms and conditions could be made easier for employers. Factors such as collective consultations and collective redundancy dismissals may also be scrutinised. TUPE is now firmly embedded in business activity so it would be surprising if Brexit led to its complete removal.

Agency workers

This subject is probably going to be a key target as the introduction of Agency Workers Regulations 2010 was never really welcomed by businesses. The Regulations state that agency workers with 12 weeks’ continuous employment should be entitled to the same basic working conditions as a permanent member of staff, this includes pay and holidays. It could be scrapped entirely.


The EU, as expected, believes in equality as highlighted in its laws. EU influence acted as a catalyst for the introduction of certain protected characteristics that are now in the Equality Act 2010, such as age, sexual orientation and religion & belief. Race, sex and disability were previously covered by UK law. It is probable that the Equality Act 2010 will still be the main foundation for anti-discrimination law and equality will be promoted further.

Compensation for discrimination may be revised as there is currently no cap on financial compensation; where loss is based on elements such as financial loss and injury to feelings. Unfair dismissal compensation has a cap and this may be extended to discrimination compensation.

Given the recent reports of racial abuse, it is imperative the employers have robust policies in place to prevent any abuse and protect people from any harassment.

Family friendly

This area of law is likely to be unaffected as employers are increasingly aware of the benefits of family-friendly practices. The recent introduction of shared parental leave indicates that family friendly policies are probably going to be extended rather than reduced. Maternity and paternity rights should remain untouched.

Further information

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