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Brexit – What Impact Could It Have on UK Employment Law?

People around the world have been watching the United Kingdom’s Brexit debate unfold with varying degrees of interest, curiosity, excitement or alarm (depending on their perspective). The referendum is now just a couple of weeks away. If the UK votes to leave the European Union, what impact might that have on the UK’s employment laws?

Many of the UK’s current employment laws derive from EU law. This includes a range of discrimination laws, wage and hour rules, and certain other specific areas of employment law, such as the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations (known as TUPE, which provides, amongst other things, for the automatic transfers of employees in the event of a sale of a business). However, although the current employment landscape in the UK has been shaped by EU law, that does not mean that a vote to leave will necessarily turn the world of UK employment law on its head. Not only would there be a significant period of transition as the UK leaves the EU, but many of the laws currently in place are actually products of domestic UK legislation. A Brexit would mean that there would no longer be an obligation on the UK to keep those laws in place, but the laws would remain in effect unless and until the government decided to amend or repeal them. This may or may not happen and would be part of a wider political and policy debate over how our system of employment law should operate, but if it does, it will be part of the legislative process rather than a sudden and dramatic change as a direct result of the referendum.

It is certainly true that employment lawyers and human resources professionals in the UK are watching developments with a great deal of interest, and if the UK votes to leave, businesses with employees in the UK will need to monitor developments very closely. But the good news is that this would not happen overnight and employers should have time to react and adjust as the process unfolds.

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.