Brexit strategy?

This month saw the UK take the momentous decision to vote to leave the European Union and, since the early hours of 24 June, the news has been full of little else. While many of our readers might now be suffering from ‘Brexit fatigue’, we couldn’t avoid covering it.

However, for now, we will be (relatively) brief.

The biggest point to note is that from an employment law perspective, at present, nothing has changed and there are unlikely to be any changes in the short to medium term (at least not because of Brexit). The UK remains a member of the EU and will do so until its formal withdrawal is complete.

Until then there is no change to the legal landscape.

The process of withdrawal will be lengthy and will not even begin until later in the year at the earliest. It is likely that it is only at the point of withdrawal that any changes will begin. Understandably trying to predict what those changes might be is difficult from so far out. However, some educated guesses can be made.

For example it may be that the Working Time Regualtions are reformed. The UK has always had an uneasy relationship with this EU obligation and already had an opt-out of the 48 hour working week.

The position in respect of holiday pay could also change. The recent holiday pay cases (in which it has been held that things like commission and overtime should form part of holiday pay) rely on an obligation to read UK legislation in a way which gives effect to EU legislation. In essence bending the words of the statute to reflect what the EU intended. Absent that obligation, because the UK is no longer in the EU, there is likely to be a return to the status quo (i.e. holiday pay means basic pay). It may even be that specific legislation is passed on this point.

Whether there would be a complete bonfire of employment rights remains to be seen. In many cases the UK offers more protection than the ‘floor’ set by the EU. For example the right to paid leave in the UK is 5.6 weeks per year, whereas the EU mandates only 4 weeks. It would be politically difficult to try and take away a protection like that. However it is conceivable that there could be changes to TUPE legislation, or in respect of collective redundancy obligations, especially if the UK does experience economic turmoil which has been predicted.

All we can say for certain is that, if there are any changes, you will hear about them from us.

Dominic Bonham