With a 52% majority the British public yesterday voted in favour of ending our 43 year relationship with the European Union. The result will mark a significant turning point in British history as well as the UK being the first ever country to actually leave the union.
Much of the recent debates have been geared towards immigration issues and the potential impact on the economy and our trade partnerships, however, let’s take a minute to consider what impact “Brexit” will now have on UK employment law.
For the most part the influence of European Directives has been a welcome addition to UK employment laws. European laws that have been incorporated via Acts of Parliament are classed as “primary legislation” and therefore freestanding UK laws. They will most likely remain in place unless the Government specifically decides to abolish them. The Working Time Directive however is of particular concern. This has been incorporated into the UK under “secondary legislation” meaning Government ministers have been granted the power to do so by the European Communities Act 1972. Removing this framework would have more far reaching consequences but the likelihood is the Government will maintain the status quo and seek to address the particular concerns of each law individually over time.
How UK employment tribunals and courts continue to rule on matters will now require much consideration and alteration. Currently rulings from EU employment cases are considered in the UK but what impact these may have on future rulings remains to be seen.
Will it still be possible even to rely on legislation derived from European laws if we are no longer a member?
The biggest impact of leaving the EU is likely to be the free movement of workers. This basic principle has provided a larger selection pool for the recruitment process of UK businesses as well as providing more opportunities overseas for UK workers. New border controls and restrictions will take time to implement and also depend on what deals the UK will now strike with the EU but employers should now assess what, if any contract amendments and Visa implications may be required. Additionally, if your business operates in other EU countries you may wish to give thought to the financial or logistical challenges that could arise. The consequences of leaving the EU will not be significant in the short term but it is worth giving thought to the “what if’s”.
So what happens now? The first step will be for the UK to notify the European Council following of their decision to leave following which there will be a 2 year process to negotiate the mechanics. Once that has been decided the transition is likely to take some years with gradual changes.
Backhouse Solicitors will be closely following the impact of the referendum result and will be on hand to advise on any employment law implications. In the meantime if you have any specific concerns you would like to discuss please contact a member of our employment law team.
The Backhouse Solicitors Team