The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published a short guide to how rights in the workplace could be affected in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/workplace-rights-after-brexit?utm_source=5185f3d5-7c4e-47f7-b3b5-54e4da978356&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate, this includes a link where employers and employees can sign up for email alerts giving the latest information.

BEIS emphasises that, in most cases, there will be no changes to workplace rights even if the UK leaves the European Union without agreeing a deal. There are, however, two areas where it anticipates some changes to rules.

Employer insolvency

The rights of UK and EU employees working in the UK will not change after a no-deal Brexit as they will still be protected if their employer becomes insolvent.

For UK employees working in an EU country for a UK employer, while they may still be protected by the national guarantee fund established in the EU country in which they are working, rights may differ in each country depending on how that country extends protections to non-EU employers and employees.

BEIS advises that people should contact the relevant British embassy, high commission or consulate for more information about the law in a particular EU country.

European Works Councils

Currently workers can ask their employer to set up a European Works Council (EWC) to provide information and consult with employees on issues affecting employees in two or more European Economic Area (EEA) countries (the EU Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

If a request to set up an EWC is submitted before Brexit, it will be allowed to complete and the Government has said that it will make sure the enforcement framework, rights and protections for employees in UK EWCs are still available “as far as possible”.

It is also encouraging businesses to continue to allow UK workers to be represented on EWCs on a voluntary basis.

However, BEIS suggests that UK businesses with an existing EWC, and trade unions that are involved in EWC agreements, may need to review those agreements if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Comment from Peninsula Employment Law Director Alan Price

In these uncertain times, it is easy to have some sympathy for business owners, many of who are basing their forecasts on the promise of stability from the UK government in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

However, the latest indications from the BEIS may go some way to reassuring employers that they will still be able to operate as normal, regardless of how the UK departs the EU.

For your average employer the Government’s warnings on insolvency and European Works Councils are unlikely to cause much of a stir, as more attention will be directed towards the issue of workers’ rights and other existing laws, such as those that are underpinned by the European Working Time Directive.

Having said this, it will be important to take note of all Government guidance in the lead up to October’s proposed leave date, and employers should remain in a position to incorporate any changes to their business practices where necessary.

Last reviewed 14 August 2019