The Long (Long) Goodbye

In our last newsletter we promised to keep you updated on the employment law implications of Brexit. One month on from the momentous vote not much has changed (employment law or otherwise) and it looks like that will be the case for some time to come.

However there is at least something to report. The newly appointed Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis, has indicated that in his view current employment law would not be drastically altered once the UK leaves the EU. He has been quoted as saying that “Britain has a relatively flexible workforce, and so long as the employment law environment stays reasonably stable it should not be a problem for business”. It appears that what he has in his sights instead is the regulatory framework that governs the EU markets.

On the other hand Theresa May, our new Prime Minister, has just appointed George Freeman MP as the chair of her policy board. Mr Freeman has long been for cutting employment rights, in a paper he co-wrote and published in June 2013 he suggested that the government ‘should exempt new firms for their first three years from employers’ national insurance, business rates, corporation tax and employment legislation’. So it seems we are not very much closer to finding out what the future holds.

On a related note, according to a study by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory there are almost 2.2 million EU workers in the UK (which comprises approximately 6.6% of the total workforce) and it has been reported that many of those workers are concerned about the effect of Brexit on their job security (and even their right to remain in the UK).

If EU workers in the UK remain unsettled by the Brexit vote, that may impact on their productivity, so employers may be thinking about what practical steps they can take to reassure those affected.

At this stage, while the future landscape remains uncertain, employers need to ensure that they do not promise anything that they may not have control over. However, it could explained, for example, that there will be no immediate change and adopting a policy of openness and transparency about these issues may be the best way to reassure employees in the short term.

Dominic Bonham