What does the future hold for UK Employment Law

Career Advice
07 February 2017 | Career Advice | Guest Author

What Does the Future Hold for UK Employment Law?

For business owners and their employees, there has been no greater cause for concern than the ongoing obscurity over the future of employment law in the UK. The prospect of Britain breaking ties with Europe has been hotly discussed in recent months, and the government’s decision to finally release a white paper on their Brexit aims has offered some relief.

The very fact that protecting workers’ rights made it onto the 12-strong list of priorities is reassuring. The majority of the discourse until this point has been around maintaining key rights that we now take for granted, such as maternity pay, paid sick days and a robust holiday pay scheme. The blanket understanding of the government’s plan so far is that all laws currently dictated by Brussels will simply be copied and pasted into British law, with the stipulation that we can scrap over the details at a later date.

For the 7 million foreign-born workers in the UK – and the companies that employ them – the white paper might not have offered the reassurance they have been looking for. While controlling immigration has been a key talking point from the Leave Campaign, the conversation is now shifting towards ensuring the economy is able to survive outside of the open market. The idea of kicking everyone out as soon as article 50 has been triggered has slowly been left in the dirt.

Immigration and employment, it would seem, are inextricably linked. The government white paper makes several references to a new immigration system that would “encourage the brightest and the best to come to this country, as part of a stable and prosperous future with the EU and our European partners”. A key part of this will be understanding and listening to local labour concerns and using these to shape immigration policy. A points-based system is out, but perhaps a system akin to the Canadian Provincial Nominee Program would be better suited?

So for the workers who are able to live and work in Britain, what will their working conditions look like? The section of the white paper outlining how workers’ rights and UK employment law will be protected is fairly sparse and offers no concrete guidelines about what will happen. A graph highlighting the differences between EU directed holiday entitlement and paid maternity leave compared to the UK’s offering dominates the section.

Emphasis seems to be placed on maintaining what we already have and then enhancing it further. Yet, it begs the question, if the UK was already offering more than what Brussels set out, how are we supposed to take claims that UK lawmakers were stifled by Brussels? As part of the EU, the UK was able to offer its people more than the EU set out but not take it away. All eyes will be on this side of the Brexit process as we wait to see how the UK employment landscape looks outside of Europe. Particularly with claims that Tory MPs have encouraged business owners to draw up a list of workers’ rights they would like to scrap after Brexit.

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