As things stand, we expect to see many significant changes to UK employment law over the coming year, and to keep you informed and share guidance on what steps your business should take, we will be posting news updates, and subject matter articles in our Employment Law Reform hub.
As part of leaving the European Union, the 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Act was introduced. This resulted in an agreement being made between the European Union and the UK to allow the UK to retain most EU legislation in its domestic legislation even after its departure from the Union.
Fast forward four years, on 22 September 2022, the UK Government announced a new Bill – ‘Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill’ that if passed, would overturn this position. It would mean that most retained EU laws would cease to remain in force according to a ‘sunset clause’ contained within it (a ‘sunset clause’ is a legal term that provides an expiry date once a Bill is passed into law).
This clause has a date of 31 December 2023, which is the point at which the EU law that has been retained by the UK will expire. There is, however, potential for the Government to extend this expiry date, but can only do so once and can only extend until 23 June 2026.
This Bill would allow Parliament to amend, repeal and replace approximately 2,4000 pieces of retained EU law, however, this is not all employment legislation, it will also include other areas of legislation such as those relating to the environment, health and safety, food standards, financial services and many others.
The UK laws that will be impacted
The Bill will impact several major areas of existing employment law, which have come about from EU directives and have been in place for significant periods of time. It means that the following pieces of UK legislation could be repealed, amended or replaced:
Working Time Regulations 1998
These Regulations derive from the European Working Time Directive and are primarily in place to protect workers from excessive hours. It ensures that working hours operate safely and to also provide employees with sufficient rest periods.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 protects workers from discrimination in the workplace and replaced previous anti-discrimination laws to make a single Act, making it easier to understand and apply. The Act, in part, derives from four pieces of EU Equal Treatment Directives
The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) – TUPE was introduced in the UK back in 1981 and derive from the EU’s Acquired Rights Directive. The legislation provides protection to workers in the event of the business changing hands.
Agency Worker Regulations 2010
These regulations provide rights to temporary agency workers so that they have some basic protection regarding working and employment conditions. It came into force back in 2008 following the EU’s introduction of the EU Agency Workers Directive.
Part Time Worker Regulations 2000
Those who work part time are protected by these regulations from being treated less favourably than equivalent full-time workers. They were introduced following the introduction of the EU Framework Agreement on Part Time Work Directive.
Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, the Government introduced its own UK GDPR. With the introduction of the Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill it means that our GDPR rules are likely to be impacted. UK GDPR protects the rights and freedoms of UK citizens with respect to their personal information.
How European case rulings could be impacted
The Bill if introduced, would also impact other aspects of UK employment legislation by:
- Repealing supremacy of EU law by 31 December 2023. At present, UK courts are bound by EU decisions made before 1 January 2021. This Bill would ensure favour is given to UK law by default meaning that UK employment courts will not be able to use EU decisions to help in their interpretation of UK legislation
- The Bill allows UK courts to reach judgements that do not align to European case law that has become retained in UK law as part of having been a member of the Union.
- Repeal rights and obligations currently effective within existing UK domestic law that derives from EU law. For example, current UK employment legislation provides a prescriptive method for calculating a worker’s ‘normal pay’ (The Employment Rights Act 1996, section 224). This in theory could be repealed, amended, or replaced.
We continue to monitor the developments of this Bill and will provide updates as they arise. Currently, the Bill is at the second reading, however, the date has not yet been set for this.
Access the Employment Law Reform Hub
To keep up to date with everything relating to the Employment Law Reform Bill, you can find all of our latest updates within the hub.
You can access the hub and view the latest updates as and when they happen, here.