24th June 2016

A substantial amount of the UK’s employment law has been derived from Article 153 of The Lisbon Treaty. It allowed the EU to create a legislation, directly applicable to a member state’s employment law. Including, but not limited to working hours, workers’ rights, and health and safety. Member States are free to create their own legislation, so long as it is compatible with EU laws.

Areas of Employment Law which may be affected

Working Time Rights: The Working Time Regulations 1999: Workers cannot be required to work more than 48 hours a week.

Free Movement of Workers:  The right of EU citizens to freely live and work across the EU. Citizens of other Member States may no longer enjoy an automatic right to travel to and work in the UK and UK citizens may no longer enjoy EU citizenship rights of freedom of movement in the EU.

Health and Safety: Businesses are obliged to follow rules in areas such as fire and explosions, and working from height. However, the health and safety laws have been attacked for being unnecessary and cumbrous. Employers have felt that the employer’s duties under Health and Safety At Work Regulations 1999 are too paternalistic towards their employees.  Having said that, implementation varies widely across the member states, with the UK amongst the most stringent in following the laws.

Sick leave: EU employees are entitled to paid sick leave.

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010: This gives temporary workers the same rights as full time workers after having worked for a certain period of time. Business owners have also complained about added costs and confusion associated with the legislation. Therefore, the Agency Workers Regulations may be in danger of disposal.

How easy would it be to repeal EU employment laws?

There is no immediate change to the current legal position. The UK remains a full member of the EU until the terms of the withdrawal agreement are negotiated. There will be a two-year transitionary period in which all EU laws will still apply.

Given the complexity involved of the negotiation process, it will not be settled any earlier than two years. It is conceivable that the UK would remain in the European Economic Area, whilst leaving political marriage with the EU. However, it must be borne in mind that nations are still required to comply with the majority of EU employment laws. Leaving the EU is no guarantee of leaving its regulation.

For the time being, radical reform will not be actioned and EU Laws very much still apply to the work place.

For further information on UK Employment Law, please contact our Court Partner, Mary Nimmo or our Trainee Solicitor, Jacqueline Ross.