There are a number of different ways in which Brexit may impact workplaces and workforces, from the framework of employment law to the implications of employing EU residents and practicalities on conducting business in Europe.
A substantial amount of employment legislation in the UK is founded upon EU Directives, including family leave, discrimination rights under the Equality Act and the Working Time Regulations. During the Transition Period, that applies from 1 February 2020 until 31 December 2020, employment and immigration requirements will remain mostly unchanged, with free movement of people effectively still applying. The changes that will be experienced post Brexit will vary depending on the terms agreed for the future trade deal to apply at the end of the Transition Period, and the relationship that is forged in the process.
The issue of whether any post Transition trade deal will either maintain EU-derived employment rights into the future (so-called “regulatory alignment”) or enable their diminution is clearly a matter of current political debate and controversy.
The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (“the Act”) departed from the previous draft version of the legislation which included some provisions ring-fencing existing EU-derived employment rights and relevant judgments of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). These provisions were taken out of the draft legislation as introduced after the recent election. Instead the Act gives the Government power to issue regulations setting out the circumstances in which UK courts and tribunals will be free to depart from established law based on ECJ case-law. It is widely predicted that this latitude could in the long term result in substantial and long-lasting uncertainty for employers and employees alike, for example in the areas of holiday pay, redundancy consultation and TUPE transfers.