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What does Brexit mean for the UK’s small business employers?
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An HR perspective…

We’ve purposely taken a little bit of time to digest the news, and look at the real situation that the Brexit vote has left us with, (rather than jumping on the panic bandwagon!). The reality of the situation, as far as Employment Law goes, is that right now, not all that much has changed and there is little point in panicking. In true British fashion it’s business as usual.

That said, it’s important we all keep our finger on the pulse, watch the news as it unfolds, and understand where there is potential for change and what that change could mean for us…

Employment Law and the EU

Employment law is just one of the many ties to the European Union that will need unpicking in the weeks, months and years to come. For now, the UK is a full member of the EU and, as such, decisions of the European courts and any new EU directives in the employment field apply to the UK in just the same way as before. The ability of EU nationals to live and work in the UK is also unchanged.

Once the formal decision to invoke Article 50 (the EU Lisbon treaty provision allowing any member state to negotiate an exit from the EU) is activated, which could be before the end of the year according to the new Brexit Minister David Davis, there is at least a 2 year time period before we leave, which itself may be extended by agreement of all member countries of the EU.

During the two year “leave period” that will follow it is unclear what impact there will be on UK Employment Law and how it will affect the day-to -day running of our businesses, as the UK will continue to be a member of the EU.

Today, however, the burning issue on everyone’s minds is really the right for EU Nationals to continue to live and work in the UK.

Can I continue to employ EU staff?

This is the biggest potential change that could affect UK employers and it’s likely to be central to the exit negotiations in two ways:

  1. What will happen to those EU nationals already living and working in the UK?

  2. What, if any, restrictions will there be on any EU nationals seeking to take up employment in the UK after exit?

We’d love to have a concrete answer for you, but we believe that whilst the exit negotiations are happening there is unlikely to be any change. Our message, therefore, is that your HR practices and processes should continue unchanged, for now, and that you can and should reassure your staff (especially the EU Nationals) that this is the case.

Whilst this is the topic we are all familiar with there are a few other considerations that could affect your business in years to come…

Other Brexit Employment Law Considerations

There are a few other considerations where EU directives have affected what we do in this country. Much of EU Employment Law is enacted into British Law now, and so there would need to be a change of law through our Parliament to change things. Here’s a list of things we’ll be keeping an eye on:

Working Time Regulations 1998 – This limits the amount of work employees can undertake without rest breaks, and although based on an EU directive, will continue to be British law until changed by Parliament.

Anti-discrimination law set out in the Equality Act 2010 – Much of which is connected to EU directives. In this area we are also separately signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights which will not necessarily be affected by Brexit and so there is even less likelihood that equality laws will change anytime soon.

Flexible working rules – These are rules on the protection of working conditions of part-time workers so that they are no less favourable than those of comparable full-time workers, and the protection of agency workers so that they are paid the same rate for a job as permanent staff once they have been in post for 12 weeks are all also based on EU Directives and would require specific new British laws to change.

Holiday Pay CalculationsWhat elements should and should not be included is an on-going saga, but it looks likely that the key cases like Lock –v- British Gas will continue through the British courts.

The Trade Union Act – A new law that has been passed and is yet to come into effect, requires, amongst other things, a minimum 50 per cent turnout in a strike ballot. This could change or be delayed.

The Immigration ActAnother new law, it is intended to make it easier to prosecute employers who employ illegal migrant workers, similarly  this could change or be delayed.

The National Living Wage – The economic uncertainty may well have an impact on things. The government had suggested that they wished to see the rate of the National Living Wage reach more than £9 per hour by 2020, but this may now not be practical.

What’s the best course of action?

Right now, we suggest you concentrate on communicating well and regularly with your staff. Information, openness and reassurance will help to keep productivity and morale up, whilst things become clearer, and mean you are less likely to encounter grievances and employment tribunal claims.

If you employ EU Nationals they will be in particular need of your support at this time. They are likely to be feeling unsettled and may even be at risk from discrimination from other employees in the immediate aftermath of such a bitter and fear driven Referendum campaign.

Should you need any guidance at all please get in touch with us here at citrusHR on 0333 444 0165.


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