14 Dec 20

EU law has significantly influenced and contributed to UK employment law, both directly through EU Regulations and decisions of the European Court of Justice and indirectly through Directives and provisions of the various EU Treaties, which have then been implemented into UK law by the UK Government.

In general, the approach of the EU has been to champion and protect workers’ rights, often to the dismay of some Member States and employers within them due to the associated increased workforce costs and administration. Indeed EU-derived workers’ rights are globally acclaimed and one only has to look to the less generous labour laws in the US to recognise the relative strength of EU workers’ rights. Some of the workers’ legal rights we enjoy today that are derived from EU law include:
  • The right to a written statement of particulars of employment – i.e. a written employment contract
  • Various rights in relation to working time, such as the maximum number of hours in a working week, minimum rest periods and minimum amounts of paid annual leave
  • A raft of rights relating to equality
  • Collective rights in relation to transfers of employment from one business to another and in collective redundancy situations
  • Enhanced obligations relating to health and safety at work
  • Protections from discrimination between different categories of worker (e.g. agency, fixed-term or part-time workers), so that they do not get a worse deal than their full-time, permanent colleagues

What will happen on 1 January 2021?

At present, nothing will change in UK employment law despite the “transition period” coming to an end on 1 January 2021. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 does however provide some key pointers as to where and how change may arise Legislation
  • All domestic legislation that was passed as an implementation of EU Directives shall remain in place – for example, the Working Time Regulations and TUPE.
  • Directly-applicable EU law (i.e. EU laws that did not need to be implemented by the UK Government passing implementation legislation, such as GDPR) shall continue to apply and prevail over UK laws after 1 January 2021, unless and until it is formally repealed or replaced by the UK Parliament. Some EU law has already had the ‘off switch’ prepared, most notably the freedom of movement for EU citizens coming to the UK, and UK citizens travelling to and within the EU.
  • EU law’s supremacy over UK law will also continue in respect of modifications to pre-Brexit UK laws, even where those modifications are made after the end of 2020.
  • In general terms, all fresh post-Brexit UK legislation shall prevail over EU law.
If you need any assistance with the issues raised in this note, please contact Alex Brooks in our Employment team. To download a PDF version of this article please click here.