Following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, the UK government have now unveiled their urgent proposals for what could be interpreted as the most significant transformation to the UK legal system - the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022 (“Bill”).
What is The Retained EU Law Bill 2022?
Legislation derived from EU law currently covers most aspects of the laws relating to the UK. This includes areas such as data protection, intellectual property and employment law to just name a few. The Bill is said to abolish the special status of retained EU law and put the UK statue book on a more sustainable footing.
In essence, the Bill seeks to automatically repeal any piece of retained EU law on 31 December 2023 (known as the ‘sunset’ date), unless specific legislation is introduced to retain it. Although there are provisions for an extension mechanism allowing until 23 June 2026.
Any EU law remaining in force after December 2023 will be removed and joined into the UK domestic statute book.
In or out, which EU law will remain?
Whilst the long-awaited Bill provides law makers with greater autonomy and powers, one certainty is that with much of UK law being derived from EU law (over 2,400 pieces of legislation to be precise), the selection process of identifying and determining which piece of legislation is to be preserved and joined into domestic law will most definitely not be an easy task for the government, especially given the short timeframe.
With the government’s desire to quickly carve out European law comes the risk of laws being inadequately substituted, or, even repealed without proper scrutiny or consideration of what impact it may have on individuals and businesses.
The government are yet to announce the laws that will be preserved however with the current uncertainties facing the UK economy coupled with saga of mini budget U-turns, we will have to watch these developments very closely.
What does this mean for UK employment law?
With the clock ticking, and the Bill having to pass through various stages of parliamentary scrutiny before becoming law, it is difficult to say how this will impact employment law. For now, all we can do is speculate the far-reaching consequences.
As it stands, it is anticipated that primarily legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 and the Employment Rights Act 1996 will remain in force. With focus being on secondary legislation joined by EU law, such as:
- Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations
- The Working Time Regulations
- The Agency Workers Regulations
- Fixed-term Employees Regulations
- Part-Time Workers Regulations
- The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations
- Various health and safety regulations
- Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations
The introduction of the Bill could therefore see a goodbye to employment rights and protections such as 48 hour working week, annual paid leave entitlements, equal pay, and minimum rest periods. It is uncertain what impact, if any, this will have on rights already joined into contracts of employment. Our guess is that changes will relate to minimum legal requirements but will not seek to unpick existing contract terms. This means that existing employees are unlikely to see changes in their terms.
It is possible that the complex rules surrounding TUPE transfers and the calculation of holiday pay could be clarified, but that remains to be seen.
What should you do?
With the fact that the Bill is not yet law, and in the absence of clear information about what will happen, we are not recommending employers take any particular steps at the moment.
The key point is that employers should be aware that changes are afoot and should ensure they keep up to date with proposals relating to the Bill. We will of course issue updates as and when more is known.