The Brexit White Paper: Employment Law Implications

26 July, 2018
by: Cripps

On 12 July 2018, the Government published its much-anticipated White Paper, ‘The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union’. This White Paper details the Government’s plans for delivering Brexit and for how the UK and the EU will interact with each other going forward. Within the first of its four chapters the White Paper documents the desire for “open and fair competition”, which includes employment rights.

What does the White Paper say about employment rights?

The White Paper reiterates the Government’s commitment to “strong labour protections”, but notes that the employment landscape is changing. The Government wishes to commit to the “non-regression” of labour standards. In other words it is the intention that, at the withdrawal date, the UK will not repeal EU laws from which employment rights are derived.

The Government also proposes that both the UK and the EU continue to respect obligations derived from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Without making any firm statements, reference is made to ongoing discussions on temporary mobility for non-typical classes of individuals. This includes scientists and researchers, self-employed professionals and employees providing services.

Why does this matter?

Many important UK employment rights are derived directly and indirectly from EU law. This includes rules on working time and protection from discrimination. If labour standards are subject to non-regression during Brexit negotiations, the impact of changing rights and obligations will be lessened for both employers and employees. Employees will continue to enjoy rights which are directly enforceable within the UK’s courts and tribunals.

The White Paper’s recognition of the role of the ILO is also significant. The ILO is United Nations Agency which sets and monitors standards for labour law. Its fundamental conventions protect rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining. These conventions are widely ratified across the globe.

The future of employment rights outside of the EU

It is a benefit to workers and employees that the Government remains committed to high standards of employment law post-Brexit. Employers will also be encouraged by the certainty that the Government’s “non-regression” approach will bring if followed through.

However the White Paper represents only one side of the negotiating table. What will happen if the UK and EU cannot strike a deal? In this instance, it is not clear whether the Government’s intentions will (or even can) be carried forward. It is therefore too soon to know precisely how UK employment rights will look come 30 March 2019.

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