Some UK employment laws could be set for a shakeup after 31 December 2023, as part of the post-Brexit legal reform envisaged by the government's “Brexit Freedoms Bill.” The precise impact of this Bill, including which of its powers will be exercised and to which legal areas, remains unclear. However, given the EU genesis of so many UK employment laws, global employers with UK operations should have on their radar the possibility of significant employment law reform.
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, also known as the “Brexit Freedoms Bill,” will result in the removal from UK statute books of certain laws that were retained from the EU following Brexit. Unless restated or replaced by 31 December 2023, many of these EU laws will automatically lapse (known as “sunsetting”—see below).
Employment is an area of UK law that has strong EU links, such as laws on business transfers, maternity and parental leave, fixed term employment, etc. However, the government is yet to indicate how it plans to address retained EU employment laws, meaning there is considerable uncertainty as to what the legislative landscape will look like after 2023.
From the end of 2023, the Brexit Freedoms Bill will result in:
It is important to note that this “sunsetting” does not apply to all law derived from the UK's time in the EU. By way of example, most of the Equality Act 2010, which provides the framework of protections against discrimination, will be out of scope of these sunsetting powers. Conversely, regulations on agency workers, part-time employment, and some health and safety rules are examples of areas that could potentially be sunsetted.
We anticipate that the most likely changes will be in relation to:
We do not currently anticipate that there will be a widespread move to deregulate the employment space, particularly as both the current government and opposition parties are in favour of introducing certain new pro-employee rights. For example, various non-EU legislation is currently being considered in respect of flexible working requests (a day-one right to make the request, etc.), sexual harassment (including employer liability for third party harassment of employees), and various “family friendly” rights (including new leave rights and an extension of family leave-related redundancy protection).
Hopefully, as 2023 progresses we should get greater clarity from the government on their proposed plan of action, so employers with a UK presence are well advised to keep the Brexit Freedoms Bill firmly on their radar.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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