On 9 March an article appeared in the Independent entitled “Why Brexit would be a disaster for your employment rights” and opened with the statement that “Many of those who want the UK to leave the EU have one thing in mind – to take employment rights away from workers”.
The article went on to invite readers to “Imagine a country in which there is:
Pointing out that this was the situation before the Labour government was elected in 1997, the article went on the set out ways in which existing employment rights could be swept away.
So, what could happen to UK employment law if the referendum results in Brexit?
The starting point is that once the UK actually leaves the EU (which would be likely to take a couple of years after the referendum), the Government would regain sovereignty and would no longer be bound by EU legislation. As a result, it could repeal any existing legislation that had to reflect EU regulation, including (for example) discrimination laws.
However, there is obviously a big difference between what the Government could do and what it would do. It is worth remembering that:
Therefore, regardless of which political party is in government, the idea that significant parts of the UK’s current employment law framework will be abolished is unrealistic. Core aspects such as unfair dismissal, discrimination, whistleblowing, collective redundancy consultation, TUPE and family-friendly rights may be tweaked, but employers hoping for more than that are likely to be disappointed.
So what regulation could be for the chop?
All of this of course assumes that the UK would be able to negotiate trade agreements with the EU/EU countries that do not include an obligation on the UK to continue to abide by EU employment regulation. The jury is very much out on that issue.
So in summary, as some of our EU colleagues would say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!