EU referendum: UK votes out – what now for employers?

23 June 2016 will go down in history as the date the UK population voted to leave the European Union. Despite the magnitude of this decision, however, its employment law impact will not be felt immediately and employers will have a period of time to collect their thoughts. This is anticipated to be the start of a minimum 2 year period of negotiations to determine the UK’s future role on the global stage. There are a number of options to facilitate the UK’s ongoing relationship with the EU once the exit is formally instigated, and only time will tell which path will be taken.  For a broad overview of the implications of Brexit on all aspects of business, please click here.

In the meantime, the best approach is for employers to keep abreast of developments and have ongoing processes in place over coming months to review progress of the political wrangling. Careful monitoring will enable employers to get a feel for the likely direction of travel and assist them to address the potential implications for the rights of, and obligations towards, their employees.

The impact is unlikely to be straight forward. Politically it will be risky for any Government to seek to repeal employment rights which, although in many areas of employment law originated from the European Union, have now become enshrined into day-to-day business culture in the UK. A quagmire of uncertainty will therefore remain for some time to come. Whilst the UK may, in theory, anticipate stepping away from brand new European legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation and Trade Secrets Directive, in reality this may not be possible.  Much will depend on the terms and timing of the UK’s new trade deals. We may, however, see previously hotly contested regulation such as legislation governing working time coming under scrutiny.

As well as the impact on employment law, employers will also need to plan for the UK introducing restrictions on the free movement of workers between the UK and the European Union and the potential that this has to diminish the talent pool available to UK employers.

The fate of UK driven employment law initiatives such as gender pay reporting and shared parental leave for grandparents will be in the hands of the Government and whilst there is no indication that existing legislative proposals will not be progressed, the political upheaval that is now likely to follow could impact on the timing of legislation in the pipeline, if nothing else.

With this in mind, we will be organising opportunities for our clients to come together to discuss how they are addressing Brexit, and to hear from our employment law experts on the key issues which arise in relation to both EU-derived, and UK, employment rights. We will be holding a global webinar next week. Please look out for our future alerts publicising the dates of these events.

If you have any immediate queries about the impact of Brexit on your business, please contact Tim Marshall, Joint Global Head of Employment, or Adam Hartley, UK Head of Employment.