The decision of the British people to leave the EU came as something of a surprise to most. However, there is no need to panic!
The foreseeable future – Business as usual
Both the Leave and Remain campaigns were criticised for the lack of information provided and the scaremongering tactics used during the campaign trail. As a result, there are a lot of myths floating around about what is going to happen next and when.
The reality is, however, that it is “business as usual”.
Britain remains a member of the EU for the foreseeable future as an absolute minimum. As such, employment law (both British and EU) will continue to apply as normal.
Once a new Prime Minister is in post, negotiations will start with the EU in relation to the mechanics of the exit.
Even then, leaving the EU is not a process that will take place overnight:
- First, the Government must agree to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It will be for the new Government to decide when to do so; and
- By invoking Article 50, a two-year period will be triggered during which the EU will determine the terms of Britain’s departure.
Only once this has been completed will the UK cease to be a member of the EU. As such, the earliest a Brexit will happen will be late 2018, if indeed it happens at all.
What will Brexit look like?
This will only become clear once the negotiations have been completed and the withdrawal agreement signed, which is a long way down the line. The Government will have to ensure the necessary trade agreements are in place with the relevant countries to allow Britain to trade without being hit by excessive tariffs and other restrictions.
In addition to the freedom to trade, employment rights and the freedom of movement will also form part of the negotiations. The agreement reached may even result in Britain remaining bound by the EU’s employment rights.
In any event, most EU employment rights have become enshrined in British law. These laws will remain unless and until the Government repeal the relevant legislation, which is usually preceded by a period of consultation. As such, there are unlikely to be any immediate changes.
In the event that the Government is able to negotiate a move away from some or all of the EU’s employment rights, the areas most likely to see some change are:
- Agency Worker Regulations
- Working Time Regulations
- Redundancy rights where more than 20 employees are affected
- Anti-discrimination legislation
- EU Workers
We will, of course, keep you up to date in relation to any proposed changes in this regard as they are announced. If you would like a flavour of the legal changes that may occur, please click on these links:
What about the workplace now?
We would encourage some positive energy being fed into the workplace now. Yes, things will change. Maybe for the better. Even if things do change, nothing will happen quickly and we will all have time to consider the options and implement plans and strategies to deal with the problems this may create.
We would also encourage a message of cohesion being sent to employees.
Since the referendum, there has been an increase in reports of racism both inside and outside of the workplace. If this is (or becomes) an issue in your business, it should be dealt with in accordance with your grievance and disciplinary procedures as soon as possible to reduce any liability for your business. Racism will not be tolerated!
We hope this communication allays some of your fears. We will be in touch again when we have a clearer picture of the implications for businesses and employment law. In the meantime, it is “business as usual”.
If you would like to discuss the contents of this e-mail further, please do not hesitate to contact Andrea or Rachel. We would be happy to talk it through with you and put in place a strategy moving forwards.