Anyone for the hokey-cokey? We have endured the “in, out; in, out” bit – now it’s time to “shake it all about”...
The country has voted. Irrespective of how we voted individually, Britain is now on a track that will result in it leaving the European Union. There are many questions to ask – one in our mind is what will this mean to employers and our employment laws?
In the first instance nothing at all. Europe has set minimum standards, and in the UK there are laws and regulations that have been implemented to comply with European Directives. Exiting the Europe Union does not mean the regulations/legislation of England and Wales or Scotland or Northern Ireland will automatically cease to exist. They remain until the Government changes them.
It has been widely reported that the UK has 2 years to negotiate its exit and it is likely it will take all of this. During such time Britain will continue to abide by EU treaties and laws, but not take part in any decision-making.
Some key areas on which to ‘watch this space’:
The UK already had legislation to prohibit sex, race and disability discrimination (and others) long before Europe required us to do so. Consequently, it might suggest the current laws will continue to apply, meaning it is unlikely there will be any change to any of the current protected characteristics which provide protection from discrimination within our Equality Act.
There have been discussions about a cap being applied to discrimination compensation awards (unfair dismissal compensation is already capped) but the EU blocked this. So this might re-emerge, once we are out of European Union.
There are unlikely to be any reduction to family friendly rights. The UK significantly exceeds EU rights in this area, for example 52 weeks maternity and shared parental leave.
Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE)
The concept of TUPE are part of accepted employment protection now, and the UK again went further than required when introducing service provision change in 2006. We believe the Principles will remain, though there is likely to be an attempt to allow post-transfer harmonisation.
Additionally, perhaps changes may also be made to a relaxation of consultation provisions.
Our 20+ redundancy collective consultation laws also stem from an EU Directive. Given that these are known to be unpopular with employers there may be a change, for example requiring collective consultation only if over, say, 100 people are being made redundant (rather than 20, which is the current threshold).
Working Time Regulations
We suspect most of the Working Time Regulations will remain. Paid holiday will certainly stay, and of course the UK increased the European 4 weeks' paid annual leave to 5.6 weeks of its own volition.
It will be interesting to see if legislation is passed to address:
- accruing holiday during long-term sick leave;
- whether a ‘week’s pay’ for holiday pay calculation purposes, which currently includes commission and overtime following ECJ rulings, will return to the position it was a few years ago, with only basic salary being paid as holiday pay;
- the abolishment of the maximum average 48 hour working week, which is unpopular.
Agency Worker Regulations
These implement the EU Temporary Agency Workers Directive and require employers to offer equal terms & benefits to agency workers once they've been working for 12 weeks. These are unpopular and it will be interesting to see if they are repealed.
Any changes will be down to the Government. Given that David Cameron has stated his intention to step down, and a new Prime Minister be appointed before giving formal notice to quite the EU it will be a while yet before the UK negotiates its exit from the EU.
So it is not anticipated that any of the above possible changes will occur soon.
Right – we’re all off to practice the ‘Conga’!!!!