Post-Brexit Employment Rights
The business secretary has confirmed to the press that his department is reviewing how UK employment law rights could change, post-Brexit, including the rules on working time. This comes amidst claims from the FT newspaper that the government is planning to scrap the cap on the 48 hour working week, change the way holiday pay is calculated and change the rules around rest breaks. Employers are currently obliged to include overtime, commission and bonus payments when calculating holiday pay, however, it is being claimed that any overhaul would mean that these elements are no longer included in any calculation.
Existing EU based employment law should not change in the UK, post Brexit, unless the government legislates to change it, which is what is being speculated. In addition to any legislative changes the government might make, going forward, British workers will no longer have the benefit of the judgements of the European courts. UK courts will still be able to have regard to decisions from the European Court of Justice, on workers’ rights, but they will no longer be bound by its decisions. From an employer’s perspective, this could be a blessing because it will mean less time having to adjust working practises to comply with new EU law.
Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU, there has been widespread speculation about how UK employment laws might change. Those are gathering pace in light of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal. Much of UK employment law is derived from the EU, including the rules on working time, TUPE (the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations), which protects employees’ terms and conditions of employment when businesses are bought and sold, and discrimination rights. Experts have warned that post Brexit, employees might lose their protection under TUPE, and employers would be able to make changes to employee’s terms and conditions after a business transfer, for better or for worse. Another possible target area could be discrimination rights and Tribunals could start to cap the amounts awarded in discrimination cases (as they currently do in unfair dismissal cases, where the cap on awards is £88,519.00).
If the government did decide to abolish the limit on the 48 hour working week, it might affect its international competitiveness, which could cause problems with the EU, in light of its post-Brexit trade deal. The business secretary has said that the government wants to work to enhance workers’ rights, and not to erode them. It remains to be seen whether the “good high standard for workers in high employment and a high wage economy” that the business secretary promised in the Guardian last week, will come to fruition.
Please contact the employment team for advice if you have any questions.