Will triggering Article 50 affect employment law?

March 27, 2017
Will triggering Article 50 affect employment law?

Image by YanLev / Shutterstock, Inc
March 29th is when UK Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to trigger “Article 50” – the UK’s formal declaration that they will be leaving the European Union. Or, as it has so often been called in the media, “Brexit”.

But what many employers are desperate to know, is how this event will affect employment law. Will the triggering of Article 50 change anything to do with employment law?

Not immediately. That’s the easy answer. But that doesn’t mean you can relax – not yet!

Nothing will actually change until we actually leave the EU

The key message for employers, is that Article 50 is only our notice of resignation. It will then be around 2 years before we actually leave the EU. Therefore, no law or legislation will technically change until that happens.

Think about it like an employee handing their notice in. You are still obliged to pay their wages, and they are still obliged to complete their responsibilities. Nothing really changes – except the fact that both parties know they need to prepare to pick up the pieces once the notice runs out, and the separation actually happens.

In the meantime, CIPD provides lots of examples of things that won’t technically change during our two year notice period:

  1. We’ll still be bound by existing EU laws. Nothing will change regarding TUPE or agency worker protections.
  2. We’ll still be required to conform to new EU laws. That means as an employer, you’ll still need to comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation by no later than May 2018.
  3. Nationals from the 30 countries in the EEA (European Economic Area) will still have the right to live and work in Britain.

You’ve got two years to anticipate changes to employment law

Although the UK may well still adjust national employment law – as they’ve always been able to do – you still have two years before “Brexit” will actually change anything. You should spend some of this time thinking about what might change, and preparing to adapt to these changes once the notice period is up.

There are currently no clear answers as to what will change when Brexit finally happens. But one possibility, is that the UK will take advantage of “The Great Repeal Bill”. This essentially means that all existing EU laws we abide by, will be absorbed by British Law – effectively meaning that nothing will change immediately. Then, as we evolve and grow as a country, the government will begin to cut this down, removing parts they dislike, and adding parts they think fit better.

If this happens, changes to employment law will likely be easier to manage, as they’ll happen in small bursts, rather than one gigantic shift.

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