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French Duncan

Brexit: A Complex Tapestry to Unravel for UK Employment

21 July 2016

As the dust of seismic political change settles, slowly but surely minds are starting to shift to the tricky business of what this means for professions and industry in Britain from both an employer and employee perspective.   

Some may take the view that the implications on UK employment should have been pre-empted well before the vote.  Regardless of hindsight, what is abundantly clear is the legislation and practices which underpin employment in the UK are inextricably linked with Europe, and like a complex tapestry we now need to consider how we can carefully unpick this to ensure a sensible framework for the future.  

Employment Landscape Predictions

Whilst we are only at the beginning of the Brexit journey and uncertainty seems to be the only certainty, we have set out below our predictions for the future landscape of employment in an independent Britain:

  • Firstly, once Article 50 is triggered, rest assured employment law will not be eroded overnight.  Even where legislation has been derived from the EU, this has largely been brought in by UK domestic law and a wholesale repeal of these laws is extremely improbable - in true British style, we can ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ in the short term from an employment perspective until concrete decisions are made.
  • In the run up to Brexit, the Remain campaign and many trade unions expressed concern that the rights of UK workers would be significantly weakened if we were to leave the EU.   Whilst changes to UK employment are inevitable, we do not anticipate such change to be either large scale or intentionally detrimental to the rights of UK workers.  In fact, there are many examples of the UK enhancing EU legislation, such as providing 5.6 weeks holiday instead of the required 4 weeks and significantly greater family friendly entitlements. 
  • The free movement of workers will understandably be a huge concern for any employer who relies on a talent pool from Europe.   Whilst it is highly likely that all existing non-UK EU citizens living and working here will retain this right, it is foreseeable that addressing skills shortages through EU workers will be less simple after we leave the EU, and it has been suggested we may follow in the footsteps of Australia with a points based system.
  • Finally, ‘European employment red tape’ has been a recurring theme for many years and this could be an opportunity to refresh areas which are felt to be an unnecessary burden for employers, such as the 48 hour cap on working hours unless an employee opts out, the agency workers directive which provides equal terms to temporary agency workers after 12 weeks and the restriction on post harmonisation of terms following a transfer of business to name a few.

 Practical Steps For Employers

Many employers and employees may feel in limbo right now following the results of the vote and then awaiting more detailed plans as to what this means for employment in the UK.

Despite much uncertainty as to what lies ahead, there are practical steps employers can take now:

  • Reassurance to staff wherever possible is key, even if it is to confirm that any changes in relation to their rights, their employment and the organisation are not imminent.
  • Maintaining open communication as and when there are developments with Brexit that impact on employment.
  • If your organisation is immediately affected by the vote, for example as a result of contingency plans to relocate or positions being based on EU funding, prompt and meaningful consultation with those affected is essential.
  • Consider the impact of the Leave vote on your recruitment strategy, and plan how this can be addressed in the short, medium and long term.

Further Information & Support

Whilst complex, the tapestry created through the currently combined UK and EU employment legislation and practices can be unravelled, and the key challenge will be retaining the best aspects whilst hopefully removing some of the less sensible dimensions.

If you would like further information on the impact of Brexit on employment, French Duncan HR Services would be delighted to assist you.   Please contact Louise McCosh who leads the French Duncan HR Services team on 0141 221 2984 or email l.mccosh@frenchduncan.co.uk.