Earlier this year, the Prime Minister of the UK Theresa May activated Article 50, which triggered the start of the UK’s exit from the European Union. As an HR Advisor in Manchester, we know this news has had a profound effect on many business owners who believe that this may be a big issue and so are worried about what the future may hold with regard to employment law. In this article we will try to set those business owners minds at rest a little bit, by exploring the truth of what Britain’s exit from the EU actually means.

Now that Article 50 has been triggered, the UK has started a two-year exit from the EU. During this two years though, we will still remain a member of the EU and so there will be no changes to the existing employment laws as we will still be bound by existing EU legislation. This means that legislation dealing with TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings [Protection of Employment] Regulations 2006) and agency worker protection, for example, will remain unchanged. This also means that nationals from areas within the European Economic Area will still have the right to live and work in the UK during these two years, and any new EU laws that are introduced within this period will also have to adhere too.

But what happens after the two-year exit period is up?

Well, the day after Theresa May triggered Article 50, the Government Department for Exiting the European Union issued a white paper called ‘The Great Repeal Bill’ which went into detail of how EU legislation will be replaced by national UK laws. This Bill comes into force the day after the UK officially leaves the EU, and specifically repeals the European Communities Act of 1972 which states that EU law is supreme to that of the UK. The aim of  ‘The Great Repeal Bill’ is:

  • to convert any existing EU law into UK law
  • to give Parliament the power to create secondary legislation to enable corrections to be made to laws that are no longer appropriate once the UK has left the EU
  • and to repeal the existing European Communities Act

In the White Paper itself, Theresa May is quoted as saying: “ This approach will provide maximum certainty as we leave the EU. “The same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before. It will then be for democratically elected representatives in the UK to decide on any changes to that law, after full scrutiny and proper debate.” This should give you some reassurance that there will be no overnight changes to workers rights that are currently covered by EU laws. It seems the Government is taking the sensible approach in that wherever it is practical the same laws will apply immediately after our exit from the EU than applied before. However, what this new Bill allows the Government to do is have the power to change the laws that won’t function properly once we have left the EU.

What else?

As you can probably imagine, the legislative project involved in our exit from the EU will be massive, and unraveling all of the laws involved will probably take some time. For example, although the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will have no jurisdiction in the UK once we have left the EU, any decisions they make up to our official leaving date will still have a bearing over a legislative framework. Any ECJ judgements that have expanded workers rights in the UK will still be protected once we have left the EU as well.

A lot of existing UK employment law already goes further than the standards that are set out in EU legislation, and so it is believed that the Government will continue to strive to protect the rights that people have at work as well as enhancing these rights to the best of their ability. Once the UK has left the EU, Acts such as the Equality Act 2006 and Equality Act 2010 will still apply

So, what does all this mean for businesses with employees in the UK?

Well, it is fairly safe to say that Brexit will take some time and so the best thing you can do is to ensure your business and staff are protected by ensuring you have all the proper contracts, policies and procedures in place now.

For any advice on HR issues, including workers rights, please contact Triple Three Solutions HR Advisor Manchester on 0333 050 3330 or by email at lisa@triplethreesolutions.co.uk