Retain, Revoke, or Reform? The Uncertain Fate of EU Employment Law
Key Contact: Claire Knowles
Author: Laura Spence
In 2022, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill was introduced to parliament which is anticipated to complete its parliamentary journey in the next few weeks. In short, this Bill means that all laws derived from the EU will be reviewed and revoked unless actively retained or reformed in UK law by the end of 2023. While the Government is taking steps to fulfill its commitment to reclaim parliamentary sovereignty, this could create legal chaos for businesses.
From an employment perspective, the Bill could mark the most significant law reform in recent history, as many of the fundamental rights and protections employees benefit from originally derived from EU law. Fundamental working rights from legislation such as the Working Time Regulations, TUPE, and Health and Safety Regulations will be reviewed and may fall away unless actively retained or reformed. Fundamental family and equality rights too, such as paid maternity, paternity, and adoption leave, the right to equal pay, and protection against discrimination of pregnancy, will be re-examined and may see changes.
At this point, the Bill has not received royal assent and so further amendments are still possible. The Bill does not confirm what EU-derived laws will be retained or reformed, only that this exercise will need to be conducted on or before 31 December 2023. While we anticipate several changes this year, the Bill also includes an extension mechanism whereby some laws will not face their fate until 2026.
Concerningly, laws will (or will not be) restated by statutory instrument, meaning ministers have free reign over what stays and what goes, bypassing parliamentary scrutiny. Such a method is very unlikely to lead to objections or changes. It has been argued through the Bill’s parliamentary progression that such regulatory autonomy could make the UK a less attractive destination for international businesses and further deteriorate relations with the EU.
Notwithstanding the concerns with this Bill, it could equally allow positive measures and changes to be implemented. What stance the Government takes here largely depends on which party is in power by the time these changes are made. The current Conservative Government is likely to take the opportunity to make laws regarding TUPE-transfers and agency workers, etc. more business-friendly whereas this may not be the priority of a Labour Government.
In summary, it is unknown how employment law will change specifically over the next year, but significant changes are expected. Though the Government’s decisions may affect the base rights employees are entitled to, these changes do not prevent businesses from promoting a culture of support and equality and/or providing enhanced rights even is the statutory rights are reduced. If businesses are concerned about the uncertainty the Bill, and its subsequent reform decisions, may cause its employees, employers can consider reasserting its culture and reassuring employees of their rights. If you would like further information on how the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill may affect UK employment law in your business and/or steps that your business can take in response, please contact Acuity Law’s Employment department who will be happy to help.
For further information on the content discussed within this article, or anything else, please contact a member of the Employment team and we would be happy to assist.