Last reviewed 21 January 2021

Given its insistence that Brexit was about taking back control of its laws, as well as its borders and money, the Government has come under pressure from some of its supporters to cut back on some of the rules introduced through EU law in areas including the environment and employment.

This possibility was at the root of the EU’s concerns about maintaining a level playing field as it was clearly worried that UK businesses would undercut firms in its Member States if they were operating to reduced standards.

Recent newspaper reports have suggested that some consideration is being given by Ministers to the possibility of easing the regulatory restrictions imposed by such EU-derived law as the Working Time Regulations.

This has clearly alarmed the TUC with General Secretary Frances O’Grady reminding the Government that in the run-up to Brexit it promised to strengthen workers’ rights — not weaken them.

“During the 2019 election,” she went on, “the Prime Minister promised the largest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation. The new Business Secretary should get on with that rather than looking to the notorious anti-worker pamphlet Britannia Unchained.”

She was referring to a pamphlet on deregulation written by several British Conservative Party MPs in 2012. Of the authors, four are now in the Cabinet: the new Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng; the Home Secretary Priti Patel; Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

The possibility of a post-Brexit overhaul of UK labour employment law has also attracted the attention of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

It has advised caution, warning that the current framework already strikes the right balance for workers and employers.

CIPD Employee relations adviser, Rachel Suff, said: “The UK labour market already provides a good balance between providing reasonable protection for individuals and flexibility for employers. The UK has one of the most lightly regulated labour markets in the OECD when it comes to employment protection for individual workers and our research on this issue with employers shows few concerns with the current framework.”

There may be a case for some tweaks to aspects of the Working Time Regulations, she continued. For example, in some instances case law has led to confusing changes on holiday pay calculation or on how working time is recorded.

However, CIPD research suggests that, overall, employers are supportive of these regulations. Given the need for an improved labour market enforcement system, Ms Suff said that the best move the Government could make would be to publish its long-awaited response to the consultation on the creation of a single enforcement body for employment rights.

28 January update

It has been reported that the Government is not longer intending to review the Working Time Regulations at this current time. However, the UK's exit from the EU does mean that laws enacted as a result of its former membership could be reviewed and altered at a later date. To this end, organisations should keep up to date with all developments.

Comment from BrightHR’s CEO Alan Price

Employers will more than likely be eager to welcome clearer employment law guidance from the Government with the possibility, now that the UK has left the EU, of new laws that will favour employers and their business —potentially in the wake of a coronavirus free economy.

For now, employers will need to wait for the Government to lay out its plans for the future before taking action.