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Brexit and the impact on UK employment law

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There have been significant developments with Brexit in the last couple of weeks. The Prime Minister has set out her plan for Brexit negotiations, the Supreme Court ruled an Act of Parliament is required before Article 50 can be triggered; an Act of Parliament is currently working its way through the House of Commons and Lords, and the Government have published a White Paper.

The Prime Minister has been clear Brexit would mean a complete exit from the single market and the associated freedom of movement of people, services, goods and capital.

It is also clear from the Prime Minister she wants certainty, a stronger Britain, and a fairer Britain. Protecting and enhancing rights for workers are also one of her objectives and appears to be an issue high on her agenda.

Assuming we do end up with something in line with what the Prime Minster set out, what will be the likely impact on employment law in the UK?

  • The European Communities Act 1972, which incorporates EU law into domestic law, will be repealed. Therefore the same laws will apply immediately post-Brexit and no big changes are expected in the short term.
  • The Prime Minister confirmed that the ECJ will no longer be a part of the UK judicial system. It is expected domestic courts will have full control over the interpretation of UK laws. The removal of the ECJ will take away one layer of potential litigation and uncertainty for employers operating in the UK, particularly in areas which have ended up in the ECJ frequently, such as holiday pay claims. This may mean lower costs for litigants and less time to wait for contentious issues to become settled law, such as the ongoing holiday pay cases.
  • An exit from the single market will have a huge impact on immigration, as it will remove the freedom of movement of people. Post-Brexit this may place a higher administrative burden on employers who are recruiting from inside the EU.
  • The Prime Minister has given some assurances she wants to guarantee the rights of EU nationals who are already living and working in the UK and the rights of British nationals living and working in the EU. She wants to secure these protections as soon as possible. This would give businesses some certainty in relation to their existing workforces and would allow them time to plan their future recruitment needs.

As for what comes next, the Prime Minister confirmed there was not going to be a blow-by-blow account of the negotiations. What does seem clear is it will be business as usual until two years after the triggering of Article 50 or until an earlier deal with the EU is reached.

For further information about the implications of Brexit for your business, please contact Sally Morris at or on 01905 734032.