Brexit for South East Farmers
  • 30th Jun 2016
  • Article written by Louise Purcell
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Since a lot of UK employment law comes from the EU, Brexit could theoretically mean a seismic change in UK employment law.  However, whilst there is a great deal of uncertainty about what the UK is going to look like post Brexit, there is unlikely to be wholescale reform of employment law, any time soon.  Since most EU employment legislation is passed into law by the UK itself, it will remain on the statute books, unless and until it is repealed by Parliament.   


The Working Time Regulations have been with us since 1998.  The right to paid holiday is now well established and regarded by most as a basic right.  Indeed, the UK chose to extend the European right to 4 weeks’ paid annual leave, to 5.6 weeks and so, is unlikely to suddenly want to capitalise on Brexit in order to abolish it.  In time, it is possible that the UK may look to reduce the burden on employers by looking  to simplify the calculation of holiday pay or by looking to remove the right to continue to accrue holiday whilst on long term sick should be .


Discrimination laws have been with us since the 1970’s.  We introduced legislation to protect individuals from race, sex and disability discrimination in the workplace, long before Europe required us to do so.  Whilst discrimination law has evolved since then,  we would be surprised to see any significant change to these laws, which have over the years, become a fundamental underpinning of our society. 

There is unlikely to be much change to family friendly rights, which have very much become part of the modern workplace.


The Agency Worker Regulations require employers to offer equal terms and benefits to agency workers, once they have been working for 12 weeks.  The regulations are complex and unpopular with employers.  Since, few agency workers belong to trade unions, there is unlikely to be much support from the trade unions to maintain the protection.  These rules are therefore, an obvious candidate for any reforms by a Government looking to cut “red tape”.  


The area of greatest uncertainty for UK employers following Brexit, is likely to be the impact on the EU right of freedom of movement within the Economic Area.  Brexit is unlikely to result in the imminent expulsion of all  EU workers from the UK and it may be that current workers settled in the UK will be allowed  to remain here.  The UK is likely to look to agree deals with European neighbours, to allow workers to move between specific European countries.  Ultimately, at the very least, there is likely to be a willingness to accept non-UK workers in shortage professions and with shortage skills.    


Brexit is likely to be a fairly slow process in any event and as such, any changes in employment law are unlikely to happen straight away.

Clearly, employment legislation is more likely to be a target for reform in an economic crises.  At present, no one really knows what impact Brexit will have on the economy.  It would be surprising if there were not at least some economic turbulence, for a while at least.  We will have to see what happens, in this unchartered territory.