With the possibility of Brexit growing ever closer, concerns are growing over what the impact will be on employment law in the UK if and when we leave the European Union. Whilst at this stage nothing is set in stone, the government has published a White Paper which provides some indication of what is likely to happen if we leave the EU in March
Membership to the EU has provided a number of employment rights that have been implemented into UK law including the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, Holiday Pay, and many discrimination laws. These rights benefit both employers and employees who work domestically and overseas in EU countries. The White Paper has revealed that it is the government’s intention to permanently retain these laws and change as little as possible. As such, all employees working in the UK are likely to continue to benefit from the same employment rights after any proposed Brexit.
It is currently proposed that if we do leave the EU, there will be a two year transition period in which most employment rights will remain unchanged. However, it is anticipated that free movement will cease. As such, the government has indicated how Brexit is likely to impact EU workers. Under the government’s proposal, European workers currently residing in the UK will have the option to apply for settled status from 2019. Settled status will allow European workers to remain in the UK indefinitely once the transition period expires in 2021. In order to obtain settled status workers will need to have lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years prior to making an application.
EU workers who have not been living in the UK for 5 years will be able to apply for temporary status which will allow them to remain in the UK until they have met the residency requirements for settled status. However, employers may need to adjust their recruitment processes when hiring EU workers from 2019 as it is anticipated that they will be subject to the same restrictions as other foreign nationals. It is also likely that recruitment and retention policies within employment contracts will need to be reviewed and amended accordingly. It is also advisable for employers to audit their UK and European workforce as soon as possible to identify where employees are working and ensure that they are able to comply with any changes that may come into force post-Brexit. Employers should also consider whether it is necessary to review their harassment and anti-bullying policies, due to an increase in reports of racial harassment and discrimination brought about by the possibility of Brexit.
The truth is that whilst there are some indications as to what is likely to happen post-Brexit nothing is certain, and any proposals are still subject to change. If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 the picture may become a little clearer, but until then it is advisable for both employees and employers to monitor the situation closely and take precautionary steps as soon as possible.
BTMK Solicitors will help employers and employees with all related issues, whether it’s dealing with non-contentious or contractual issues, or issues of employment litigation being dealt with in the tribunal.