The United Kingdom announces the bill that may affect the rights and benefits of workers.
The UK government published the Retained EU (Repeal and Reform) Bill yesterday. It can repeal all employment and health and safety rules stemming from the EU if approved. These proposals were included in the 2022 Queen’s Speech. Still, at first, it was believed that the government would focus more on easing trade barriers than removing large segments of long-standing labor protections. Acvian offers a wide range of help regarding UK employment law through our UK EOR.
This assumption may not be fair. The bill aims to abolish all EU-derived UK legislation within the next 15 months. If the government wants to keep many of the current labor rights after December 31, 2023, it must take proactive steps.
Since the Brexit vote, the Conservative government has promised to “defend and extend workers’ rights”. The Times stated in August that a Liz Truss government would amend the Working Time Regulations to abolish restrictions on the 48-hour workweek. Still, the new prime minister has not made any comparable commitments. Numerous unions responded by urging the new administration to “become transparent” about its plans for workers’ rights. But no guarantees have been provided so far.
Instead, he introduced a bill that allowed him to significantly change labor law.
What will happen to UK Labor Law?
Most of the UK laws that were in force before December 31, 2020 or December 31, 2020 were retained by the European Union Withdrawal Act. They are called “retained law”. The UK Working Time Regulations, Equality Act, TUPE, Agency Worker Regulations, Part Time Worker Regulations and other national laws implementing EU law are examples of this. It also covers findings issued by the European Court of Justice on or before December 31, 2020.
While the employment courts and the Employment Appeals Tribunal are currently barred from hearing EU cases, the Appeals Court and the Supreme Court are currently allowed to do so if they believe it is “right” to do so.
What changes to expect?
The document will bring a number of changes:
- By the end of 2023, repeal of laws derived from the EU. The government can extend that deadline to June 23, 2026 (the 10th anniversary of the Brexit vote), but cannot extend beyond that point.
- By the end of 2023, the principle of legal primacy of the EU will be abolished. Right now, the law is clear. Any judgment made by the EU before January 1, 2021 is enforceable in UK courts unless the government decides to set it aside. However, by default, this bill will replace all European Union laws with United Kingdom laws. In other words, courts and tribunals will not be able to extend UK legal interpretation to implement EU law or use EU rulings to help them understand British law.
- By the end of 2023, UK law will repeal all rights and obligations stemming directly from EU law. This will affect, for example, the idea of ’regular pay’, which has given rise to a great deal of litigation around holiday compensation.
- It is forming a new priority rule that requires the continued direct application of EU law to be understood and applied under national law.
How will the government decide to uphold the laws?
The government published a summary of withheld EU law in June, listing more than 2,400 pieces of legislation from more than 300 different political areas and 21 economic sectors. It seems unlikely that civil servants will be able to sift through so much legislation in time for ministers to decide which parts they want to keep (and then pass the legislation to make that happen) before the December 31, 2023 deadline.
So people are likely to lose current labor protections simply because ministers haven’t had time to study them. That would be a fiasco and create considerable uncertainty for both employers and workers.
As a result of the UK government’s violation of the TCA provisions, which we discuss here, the EU is also likely to take legal action against the UK government. However, the authorities have already shown that they are willing to violate international agreements, and the prospect of legal action may not be enough to prevent it from limiting workers’ rights.
What to expect from the employer’s side?
More uncertainty is often the last thing employers want. Acvian has a blog article on recent details of UK employment law. In case you want to hire a talent in Great Britain, contact us or book a meeting.
Many find it difficult to fill open positions with qualified people and are unlikely to do so if their benefits are reduced. Most companies also want to do what is responsible and see the benefits of treating employees properly. That’s not to say that they won’t be angry to see some laws disappear, when it comes to the recent decision on vacation pay for half-year workers. But they also have to deal with the law as it is now, not what it might be at the end of the year.
Unexpected results can also occur. An increase in the number of unions demanding employer recognition may be due to workers fearing that their rights will be restricted.
Disclaimer: This article should not be considered financial advice. It was written for educational purposes only.