Brexit – will workers’ rights be affected?

Whether you voted for “Brexit” or not in the referendum on the 23rd June 2016, there was a 51.89% majority decision to leave the European Union. The Prime Minister subsequently triggered Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union to invoke exit procedures for Britain to leave the EU.

So where are we now in terms of the law?  The Government has announced that it will be removing legislation that gives EU law supremacy in the UK and will restate UK law that was previously in place. Known as the “Great Repeal Bill” all EU law will be transposed on to the UK statute book – this will be a massive legislative undertaking.  The aim of this is to preserve UK laws made to implement EU directives and it should preserve EU rights for an individual. It will also mean that there will not be a “black hole” in the UK statute book. This would appear to maintain protection for workers and Health and Safety Law.  It will allow for a continuity which should maintain stability for both employers and workers once we leave the EU as nothing will change immediately once we leave the EU.

The intention, however, is then to pick and choose which of the laws will be retained and which will be removed to ensure proper functioning of UK law. The UK can “amend, repeal and improve” the law as necessary.  This is a significant power which will give the power to legislate without the usual scrutiny.

Once we leave the EU the European Court of Justice will  no longer have jurisdiction.  The White Paper has acknowledged that ECJ decisions up to the time of leaving will have a bearing over our legislative framework. Where rights of workers have been extended by ECJ Judgements, those rights will continue and be protected once Brexit has taken place.  The hope is that “this approach will give certainty to service providers and users, as well as employees and employers, creating stability in which the UK can grow and thrive.”

It is therefore hoped that the progress in Health and Safety Law in ensuring safer working conditions will be maintained and the legislative framework will ensure that workers’ rights will be protected post Brexit. As with all things Brexit, however, nothing has been determined until it has actually taken place and the negotiations for Brexit have concluded.