Business as usual for employers pre Brexit (yes, but no but...)

A note for employers and their HR teams on the effect of the UK vote to leave the EU

In all the uncertainty caused by the vote to leave the EU, it’s worth remembering that our laws and the rules on workers’ freedom of movement within the EU will remain the same until a Brexit is negotiated and put into effect.

So, in a manner of speaking, you could say there will be business as usual for employers.  But just focusing on the next few years is short sighted to say the least: there could be fairly momentous changes ahead of us. 

UK workers employed over in other EU member states and vice versa are already looking at their options: they are seriously considering whether it is worth the risk of staying in their current jobs and locations given the risks of a change to their working rights after a Brexit.

Prudent employers must therefore consider contingency plans now. Ask questions such as:

  • Will your work force be affected by a Brexit?  
  • If the right to freedom of movement is restricted, how many of your staff will be affected? How many would you want to stay? Would you be prepared to go through a visa process to keep them?
  • If you lose skilled staff after a Brexit, where will you recruit replacements?
  • Do you need to incentivise current staff from non UK member states to remain in your business in the next couple of years?

A reminder of some key pre Brexit employment law facts

Let’s just run through some of the key points arising from the vote that businesses face from an employment law point of view.

  • EU law still applies to the UK and will do until a Brexit takes effect
  • EU workers still have a right to free movement within the EU and will do until a Brexit. We do not yet know how this right will be affected after a Brexit.
  • There is some basis for arguing that those who have acquired a right under an international treaty (such as freedom of movement) will continue to enjoy that right after the treaty ends. At present, comments about whether this will be a successful argument would be pure guesses.
  • Those affected – both individuals and those businesses who employ affected individuals -  should monitor government negotiations on whether the UK will retain the right to free movement after a Brexit.

The Law Society has produced a useful summary of these issues in its note: Immigration and employment law: Implications of Brexit.

Some views about specific employment laws (such as TUPE and the Agency Workers Regulations)

To read more about the effect of a Brexit on particular employment laws, read “What effect might the Brexit have in the workplace?” 

Contact

To discuss how Brexit might affect your business, please contact Susan Mayall on 0161 684 6948 or email susan.mayall@pearsonlegal.co.uk.

Posted: 22 July 2016

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers LLP or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.