The surprise leave vote delivered in Thursday's EU referendum has caused political and financial turmoil and left many fearful for their futures. What impact is it likely to have on employee rights?
A lot of the UK’s employment law comes from the EU, the more notable bits include:
- Discrimination rules
- Collective consultation obligations on redundancy
- TUPE (everyone’s favourite)
- The Working Time Regulations.
It is probable that the UK will remain bound by some European employment laws despite the vote to leave, as the entering into trade agreements will be dependent upon us observing the same employment regulations as other European countries. Otherwise we would be able to simply undercut other countries' businesses by making our workforce less expensive and by doing away with more of the red tape.
Furthermore, any EU regulations already implemented remain binding unless and until repealed. Some of the employment rules implemented as a consequence of EU laws are now enshrined in UK law and it is difficult to see how there would be a political appetite for their repeal. Doing away with paid holiday leave for example would be massively unpopular.
Nevertheless it is entirely possible that subsequent governments will tinker around the edges with employment laws. It is relatively easy to reduce the effectiveness of worker protection, without making substantial legislative changes.
The introduction of tribunal fees caused a substantial downturn in cases with the House of Commons Justice Committee concluding that fees "have had a significant adverse impact on access to justice for meritorious claims". And there have previously been suggestions that unfair dismissal law should be abolished altogether (see here).
Once upon at time there were caps upon the amount of compensation that could be awarded following a finding of discrimination. That cap however was ruled as unlawful be the European Court of Justice and since 1993 compensation for discrimination claims has been unlimited. It is possible this is something that may be revisited in the future.
So while nothing is likely to change in the short term, the truth is that no one can say with absolute certainty what might happen in the future.
There will be immediate concerns as regards job security and information on employee rights as they currently stand can be found.
This is intended for general information only and should not be considered as giving advice in relation to any individual case nor be taken as applying to any particular case. No liability is accepted for any such use of the information contained.