Why HR Shouldn’t Have Brexit Jitters Over UK Employment Law

As Brexit looms ever closer, Edward Gumm, HR Director for IQPC UK offers some sage advice

I made a conscious decision to keep away from writing about Brexit over the last two years, but now feel the need to conclude my hiatus!

No doubt the momentum to prepare from the UK business sector is cranking up, so that we can operationally best navigate the uncertainty that our policy makers seem determined to continue. Overall, I have been impressed with the pragmatic and nimble navigation systems implemented by many employers in the UK. Many of my peers in the UK have been open to sharing ideas to remove business uncertainty and support the fantastic European work force that we are privileged to have access to.

From resource planning, to keeping EU employees up-to-date with useful information, we are extremely lucky in the UK that our business community is so proactive and resourceful.

I would encourage all UK employers to keep up to date with the rapidly changing EU Settlement Scheme. There are many useful online guides and information documents that I would recommend you digest and share with your European workers. Understanding the finer points of the EU Settlement Scheme will be essential for HR teams; specifics such as Irish citizens not needing to apply under the scheme but their family members from outside the UK and Ireland will.

One area that has to be considered alongside strategic planning is the employment law landscape in the UK. Personally, I don’t foresee any mass changes but it is important to have familiarity with areas that may materially impact your business.

It is very important to remind us that nothing has changed. Our legal framework remains the same and we have the legal right to continue to employ EU citizens.

Whether the UK can depart from current EU requirements in the future will depend on the shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The trade arrangements post-Brexit will involve accepting some, or all, EU employment legislation.

We have had legal framework that has overall been working, therefore changes may not necessarily be immediate on the point of Brexit, or too drastic.

It is of further importance to remind ourselves that much of EU employment law has been brought into effect via UK legislation; this will remain in force post-Brexit. This includes things like our minimum and statutory pay levels. The employment landscape in the UK has also established standards where employees expect a minimum standard of workplace protection. Nobody in their right mind would want to reduce safeguards around areas like discrimination. Changes to these areas would also require approval via Parliament – good luck with that!

We have also seen from the main political parties and UK Government that they do not envisage any radical changes to the UK Employment Law framework (amazing that we seem to have a degree of common perspective!).

The UK often provides more protection/rights to employees and we are accustomed to EU Rights that benefit the UK (i.e. Working Time Directive, etc). Changing areas like this would again be pointless and a disaster from the perspective employee relations.

Our Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has also rightly confirmed that the UK has one of the most lightly regulated labour markets in the OECD in terms of employment protection legislation and that, in its view, we have the right balance of flexibility. They have confirmed that these views have been shared with the UK government and will push for the status quo to remain.

Let’s see what the next month brings us, but I can’t help but think it will be more of the same and that the existing employment law framework will remain unaltered.

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