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Will Brexit affect employment laws in the UK?

HR News |  05/10/2016
When the UK officially withdraws from the European Union (EU), it will also leave behind a number of laws and legislation.

The EU has introduced various laws relating to work and there has been concern that these will be abandoned once the UK has left the Union.

However, prime minister Theresa May has issued an assurance that workers’ rights will be protected.

The bill

The government’s new Great Repeal Bill will ensure that on the day the country withdraws from the EU, the 1972 European Communities Act - which gives effect to all EU law in the UK - will be repealed.

It will also convert all existing EU law into British law but the prime minister has said that the government will be able to amend or repeal any aspect of the European laws.

The Great Repeal Bill will have to pass through the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the British Parliament. It is likely to have a number of amendments added to it before it can be implemented.

EU laws

The Working Time Directive is one of the most significant laws that will, upon Brexit, no longer be applicable in the UK. Before it was transposed into British law, workers in this country had no statutory right to paid annual leave.

It ensured that all employees would be entitled to a minimum of 20 days’ annual leave. However, the UK government increased this to 28 days, including bank holidays, which suggests that this will not be changed after Brexit.

The Temporary Agency Work Directive is another law that the EU enforced, giving agency workers the same rights as permanent staff. Law firm Taylor Wessing has said that this is an unpopular law with British business and is likely to be amended upon the UK’s exit from the EU.

Maternity rights have also been influenced by the EU. Although the UK allowed women to take a longer time off than the EU dictated, the Union was instrumental in enforcing anti-discriminatory laws. For example, it became discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably due to a pregnancy or maternity leave.

At work

Speaking at the Conservative party conference, Theresa May said workers’ rights were “not under threat from a Conservative government” but that they would be “protected and enhanced”.

She said: “We’re going to review our laws to make sure that, in our modern and flexible economy, people are properly protected at work.”

At the same conference, Brexit secretary David Davis assured workers that their rights would be protected after leaving the EU.

He said: "To those who are trying to frighten British workers, saying, ‘When we leave, employment rights will be eroded,’ I say firmly and unequivocally, ‘no they won’t’.”

Commenting on the prime minister’s commitment to guarantee the rights of workers, Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We welcome Theresa May’s commitment to guarantee workers’ rights for as long as she is prime minister. But we need stronger protection that can span across future governments.”

Ms O’Grady went on to add that the prime minister “must follow her words on improving workers‘ rights with action”.

By Diccon Lynes

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