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23rd June 2016 is the date set for a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union. Much of the UK's employment law currently in force was enacted in response to EU legislative requirements - so what might an 'out' vote mean for employment law?
An 'out' vote could, theoretically, leave the UK free to repeal any or all employment laws which are the result of EU legislative requirements for EU member states. That's quite a startling concept - laws with EU roots include:
Realistically, the wholesale repeal of all EU-based employment laws is not a likely scenario because;
David Cameron discussed changes to the UK's membership of the EL) earlier this year and agreed a package of changes to the UK's membership. Employment law reform was not part of that package.
The UK has strongly opposed certain EU employment laws in the past, and it seems that these are the ones most likely to be changed were Brexit to happen. This would include the Agency Workers Regulations and restrictions on bankers' bonuses (CRD IV).
Of more immediate concern to employers in the event of a Brexit would be immigration, and maintaining permissions to work. The EU concept of free movement of workers entitles citizens of EU member states to work throughout the EU.
Should the UK cease to be part of the EU:
If there were an 'out' vote in June, and even if the outcome of that were that the UK wanted to repeal EU-based employment laws en masse, that would not happen overnight. For a start, the UK has to give the EU two years' notice of Brexit, so it would be a long drawn out process. Realistically, negotiating the detail of the UK's new relationships with the EU would probably take a lot longer than two years. Any changes to employment law are likely to be gradual and, to some extent, shaped by the prevailing political forces at the time.
Originally written by Anne-Marie Balfour for Purely Payroll, April 2016