The Government’s Brexit white paper has received a mixed reception when it comes to employment laws.
Employment law firm ELAS has welcomed a pledge that all current employment laws will remain in effect post-Brexit, although they recognise that there is still uncertainty as to how the EU will respond and that the final details of any Brexit deal are far from clear, and also that laws could change in the future. However, trades unionists want the legislation to go further.
In her introduction to the document, Prime Minister Theresa May says that it “would maintain our current high standards on consumer and employment rights.” One section states: “The UK firmly believes in the importance of strong labour protections while also embracing the opportunities arising from the changing world of work. Existing workers’ rights enjoyed under EU law will continue to be available in UK law on the day of withdrawal.”
The blueprint also includes a commitment to the “non-regression” of labour standards. It also states that the European Court of Justice would also have no further sway over any legal decisions in the UK so bringing accountability over UK laws back to the UK.
Enrique Garcia, an employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, says: “The UK has been ahead of the curve when it comes to employment law and many of our current laws already go further than many in the EU. As noted in the white paper, this includes parental leave, flexible working and equality. The Taylor Review has also prompted change within UK law and we expect to see the UK continue to lead from the front.
“Dependent on the final nature of the Brexit deal, the current news is that the government do not plan to renege on any existing employment law. This is good news for employees from a rights point of view as well as employers, who will no longer have to worry about getting up to speed on a myriad of legal changes.
“Of course, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be any changes in the future. One of the driving factors behind Brexit was the desire to take back control over the laws and Parliament will decide which legislation is adopted in the future. For now, at least, companies can relax somewhat and know that as long as they are compliant with all existing legislation they will be ok post-Brexit.”
Trades unionists have pointed out that the white paper does not mean the government will have to implement EU legislation introduced after Brexit.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Today’s offer on workers’ rights isn’t good enough. It provides no absolute guarantee for existing rights. And more importantly, this proposal would allow the rights of hardworking Brits to fall behind those of workers in other European countries.
“What we need is a common rule book on workers’ rights, now and into the future.”
The white paper also provides for a new framework which will allow previously established EU workers to remain in the UK by applying for ‘settled status’. Any Irish workers will have ‘special status’ and can remain in the UK indefinitely.
Peninsula Employment Law Director Alan Price says: “Although the paper serves to support the idea of there being ‘no automatic right’ to work in the UK, it also hints at potential ‘reciprocal arrangements’ that would allow businesses to move talented staff in certain situations. Additionally, workers travelling for temporary business reasons would also be able to move through countries without extensive questioning.”