Home Advice for Parents & CarersEmployment Rights Brexit – what happens next?

Brexit – what happens next?

The United Kingdom’s government is still planning for the UK to leave the European Union on 31 January 2020. The full impact of Brexit is currently largely unknown as the terms of the UK’s departure are still being negotiated.

However, the impact of Brexit on your employment rights is likely to be limited, at least in the short to medium term. Most family friendly measures have been introduced by UK (rather than European) law and are expected to remain in place if, and when, we leave the European Union. It is unlikely that employers or the government will want to cut workers’ existing rights. They are rights which UK based workers would now expect and, in many cases, it would be controversial to take these rights away.

The largest area of change will likely be the impact that Brexit will have on right of freedom of movement of EEA nationals following Brexit. Again however, until we know the clear terms of Brexit, this impact is hard to predict.

1. What are the potential outcomes of Brexit for UK based workers?

This remains very unpredictable. The UK’s government and parliament are still working to try and agree a way of leaving the European Union. The main possible outcomes are:

Reaching a deal (or agreement) with the European Union to leave

  • It is possible that the UK is able to agree the terms of a withdrawal agreement. This would mean that there is a clear route for the UK to leave the European Union over an agreed period of time;
  • This outcome is likely to lead to less uncertainty than a ‘no deal’ way of leaving the European Union;
  • It is expected that an agreed form of exit would not change the existing employment law rights and in-work benefits available to UK based workers.

No deal

  • This would result in the UK leaving with no withdrawal agreement in place.
  • No agreement would mean that it’s not clear what the UK’s relationship with the EU in the future would look like. This is expected to lead to considerable uncertainty in the nature of its trading relationships with other European countries, and elsewhere.
  • This outcome is most likely to lead to the most uncertainty in terms of which future employment laws will apply and eligibility for in-work benefits.
  • However, even a ‘no deal’ exit from the European Union is unlikely to have any immediate impact on the current employment protections available for UK based workers.
  • It could be that ‘no deal’ is more likely to lead to existing employment protections and benefits being cut over time as way of saving costs (for example, to make the UK more competitive), but that is not a clear outcome.

2. What is the possible impact of Brexit on family friendly employment rights?

In broad terms, many of the rights available to working parents are expected to remain in place following Brexit, whether the UK leaves the European Union under agreed terms, or where no deal is put in place. Many of these rights have been in place for a long time and are generally seen to be an important part of the UK’s workplace. The government has confirmed it would keep these types of rights in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union.

In the longer-term, it is possible that these rights could be reviewed or changed by future governments, but that could happen, whether or not the UK leaves the European Union.

Type of right

Is this likely to change following Brexit?

Pregnancy and maternity protections and associated rights The UK’s maternity and pregnancy related rights go further than is required by EU law. These rights have been in place for a long time. It is unlikely these rights would be removed or changed following Brexit.
Paternity leave The right to paternity leave has been introduced by UK law. It is unlikely this right would be removed or changed following Brexit.
Shared parental leave The right to paternity leave has been introduced by UK law. It is unlikely this right would be removed or changed following Brexit.
Parental leave Parents can currently take 18 weeks’ unpaid leave for each child up to (in the UK) their 18th birthday. This an EU-based right but introduced by UK law. It is possible this could be scaled back following Brexit but is unlikely to be a priority for change.
The right to request flexible working This right was introduced by UK law. It is unlikely this right would be removed or changed following Brexit.
The right to equal treatment for part time workers This right was introduced by UK law. It is unlikely this right would be removed or changed following Brexit.
Right to emergency time off for dependants This right was introduced by UK law. It is unlikely this right would be removed or changed following Brexit.
Protection from discrimination and harassment based on sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and race or ethnic origin These rights have been introduced by UK law. It is unlikely these rights would be removed following Brexit. It could be that a future government considers introducing a cap on potential awards for discrimination claims.
The right to statutory paid holiday This is well established and it is unlikely to be removed. However, there are aspects of this right that are unpopular with some businesses and which may change following Brexit (e.g. the fact that you keep accruing holiday while on sick leave)
Maximum weekly working hours This has been controversial from the start. The cap on the maximum weekly working hours under the Working Time Regulations may be removed following Brexit.

3. If the legal protections don’t change, will Brexit have no impact on my employment rights?

Even though it is expected that the UK’s employment laws won’t change following Brexit, it is expected that UK courts would no longer rely upon European case law decisions when deciding how the UK’s legislation should be followed. EU judges have, in broad terms, been seen to have taken a protective approach to workers’ rights. The UK courts would not have to follow that EU led interpretation in future.

4. How else might Brexit affect my ability to live and work in the UK?

The UK’s government has reached an agreement with the European Union in relation to EU citizens who live and work in the UK. Under the EU settlement scheme, EU citizens living in the UK after it leaves the European Union, along with their families, can stay and continue with the same access to work, study, benefits and public services as is currently the case.

In order to remain, most citizens from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland will need to take steps to ensure they take steps to apply for ‘pre-settled’ or ‘settled ‘status to continue to work and live in the UK following Brexit. More information can be found on the Gov.uk website.

Any EU citizens moving to the UK after the UK leaves the European Union will have to apply for temporary leave to remain in order to stay for longer than 3 months. If an EU citizen has been in the UK for less than 3 months and has temporary leave to remain they will be eligible to claim benefits.

5. What about work-related benefits? Will I still be entitled to these following Brexit?

Brexit is likely to affect benefit entitlement but for the time being, you can qualify as now. However, if you are a EU national and meet the conditions, you should apply for settled status now (see more on the Gov.uk website) as it will help you to meet residence conditions which some benefits have, including universal credit. And bear in mind issues such as using periods of work in other European (EEA) states to qualify, exporting benefits (taking them with you if you move to another EEA state), and how the ‘competent’ state will be decided in situations where you have links with more than one, are still unclear.

Work-related benefits such as statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance, statutory paternity pay and statutory sick pay are not affected by a person’s immigration status and so you would still be entitled to these once the UK leaves the European Union if you meet the usual qualifying conditions.

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