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Brexit - How this will impact on UK employment law

Brexit - How this will impact on UK employment law

  • United Kingdom
  • Brexit
  • Competition, EU and Trade - Brexit
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24-06-2016

Brexit and the legal implications for businessesIn light of the significant influence of migration on the EU referendum debate, the most common and pressing issue for employers concerns the status of EU citizens: can employees and workers from EU Member States continue to live and work in the UK and what about British citizens working elsewhere in the EU?

In theory, on exit from the EU, citizens of other Member States may no longer enjoy an automatic right to travel to and work in the UK (and vice versa). Migration and free movement of people will be linked to the Brexit model that is adopted.  It seems that the free movement of people will be a significant point for negotiation.

The UK Government’s stated aim is to curb migration into the UK. This is likely to be achieved through the introduction of greater immigration controls. We expect, however, EU workers that are currently living in the UK to be allowed to remain. Once the UK leaves the EU, employers can expect some changes to the pool of workers entering the UK, and could well face greater bureaucracy and visa applications in recruitment.

During the negotiation period, in theory, free movement of people should continue up to the point of exit meaning that employers can expect more workers to arrive during this period. David Davis, the Brexit Secretary has, however, said that if there is a surge of people arriving into the UK from the EU before the UK’s exit, certain restrictions may be imposed such as having a cut-off arrival date. If the UK imposes such restrictions it risks being in breach of its EU obligations.

As for UK employment law, whilst, in principle, the vote to leave the EU could precipitate workplace change and the rolling back of some EU employment laws, the likelihood of major change is small.  We say this for three key reasons:

  • whilst the UK has been an EU Member State, many EU laws have been entrenched into UK workplaces and would be difficult to change;
  • depending upon the Brexit model negotiated, the UK may be obliged to maintain employment law identical or equivalent to EU employment law; and
  • the UK Government is unlikely to have the appetite or parliamentary time available for substantial employment law reform.

A future more reformist and deregulation-focused UK Government, may well look to curb some of the more restrictive practices associated with laws originating from the EU; for example, by lifting the prohibition on changing employee terms on a business transfer (under TUPE) in the UK, or resolving the issue of holiday pay, which has taken up so much court time in recent years. UK employers can expect a reasonable run up to any such changes in any event and, the opportunity to have their say through a consultation process.

For more information, please see our Brexit resources on Employment.

Visit our Brexit Legal Advice Hub for in-house lawyers

For more information contact

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