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Brexit – The Impacts on Employment Law

| Published on May 12, 2016

What impact could Brexit have on employment law?

A referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU will be held on 23 June 2016. The term ‘Brexit’ has been coined and if the UK leaves, the government could repeal all the employment laws that derive from EU law.

In reality, this is probably unlikely as those laws are generally regarded by both employers and employees as positive. However, the government could make changes to some aspects. We look at some of the potential changes that commentators have suggested could be made below:

Discrimination law – the law could be changed to make it easier for employers to allow positive discrimination to employ under-represented groups, such as ethnic minorities, over other candidates. This would currently be considered a breach of EU law.

Freedom of movement after Brexit – There are a large number of UK nationals living and working in other EU countries and vice versa. These individuals would no longer have the right to do this and would potentially become illegal immigrants. Commentators have suggested it is likely that the government would agree an amnesty, whereby existing EU migrants could stay in return for permission for UK citizens to remain where they are.

Holidays – The government may amend aspects which are unpopular with UK businesses, for example, the right to keep accruing holiday while on sick leave and that holiday pay should be based on all pay, not just basic pay.

TUPE – the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations could be changed making it easier for employers to harmonise employment terms when transferring employees.

If the UK were to leave the EU, it seems unlikely that UK employment law would be transformed in significant ways. It will take time for the UK government to negotiate a withdrawal from the EU which in itself may create uncertainty. It is therefore unlikely the government will want to add to this uncertainty by making significant changes to employment law.

However, the potential for the government to make some changes to appease UK businesses is very real and if the government was not constrained by EU membership those changes could be implemented in the long term.

For further information and advice, please contact a member of our Commercial and Employment Team at our Poole Office on 01202 725400 or Dorchester Office on 01305 251007.

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