Many people are under the impression that employment law is an area that will be subject to significant change post-Brexit. This is largely due to the common misconception that most, or all, of UK employment law stems from European law. It may come as a surprise to many that most of the fundamental UK employment laws are not related to the EU.

Whilst no one can say for certain what will happen to UK employment law post-Brexit – and it is currently unknown whether the UK will exit the EU with or without a deal – Employment Law Glasgow have created this useful guide to explain what effect Brexit is likely to have on UK employment law.

What will happen to EU workers working in the UK?

The Office for National Statistics has estimated that 2.37 million EU nationals work in the UK. The UK government has confirmed that:

  • the rights of EU nationals working the UK will not change at present;
  • if there is a deal, EU nationals who are working in the UK before 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • if there is no deal, EU nationals who are working in the UK before 2300 hours on 31 October 2019 will have until 31 December 2020 to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme and EU nationals who move to the UK from 1 November 2019 will have to apply for a three-year temporary immigration status.

What is unlikely to change in UK employment law?

The employment rights that stem directly from UK legislation and case law will be unaffected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. These rights include: unfair dismissal, minimum wage, unauthorised deduction from wages, statutory redundancy pay, shared parental leave and flexible working.

Unless repealed, these laws will remain exactly the same after the UK leaves the EU.

What changes may be on the horizon?

Discrimination law is one area of possible change. The UK had discrimination laws for a long time before membership of the EU required it to enact discrimination legislation. The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from unlawful discrimination on the basis of their protected characteristics. The protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. These protections are now such a fundamental and accepted part of modern workplaces that any weakening of the rights seems unlikely to be popular with voters.

However, there is the possibility of a cap being introduced on discrimination awards post-Brexit. Currently, there is no limit on the amount that can be awarded in a successful discrimination claim.

The changes that may, or may not, be enacted will depend on the party that is in Government. For example, at a recent TUC congress, the Labour Party announced a number of proposals to reform workers’ rights, including banning zero-hours contracts and increasing the power of trade unions. The Labour Party would need to be elected to Government for any chance of these proposed changes to be implemented.


UK employment law is a mix of law that is entirely UK law and law that derives from the EU.

Many aspects of employment law are well established and it is unlikely that wholesale reform of these areas would be popular with voters. The UK Government will have a very long do list after the UK leaves the EU and it seems very unlikely that reform of employment law will be an immediate priority.

Overall, whilst it is impossible to predict what changes may, or may not, be made to employment law post-Brexit, it is safe to assume that there will not be any wholesale changes for a while.


Please note, this post was written in collaboration with Employment Law Glasgow.

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Catherine Reynolds
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