Brexit: How Could Changes to Labour Laws Affect Your Company

Britain has voted to leave the European Union. This will have a profound impact on all areas of business in the UK. An area of particular contention is labour laws. A range of European legislation applies to areas such as workers’ right, health and safety, and holiday entitlement. This could now be subject to change.
As a result, the way companies operate and interact with their staff could fundamentally alter.
What labour laws come from the EU?
Brussels creates and enforces a large amount of legislation that covers the relationship between businesses and their workers. This has its roots in the Lisbon Treaty, which established the EU’s remit in governing working conditions.
Examples of labour legislation from the EU include:
• 28 days paid holiday entitlement
• Laws regulating the treatment of temporary and casual workers
• Anti-discrimination laws
• Maternity leave
• Health and safety standards
These laws apply to all the member states of the EU. Countries are free to supplement this with their own legislation, however.  For example, the ‘National Living Wage’ was passed down by Westminster, not Europe.
Which laws could be changed?
EU regulations have become established and shaped working practices in the UK for years. Therefore, it’s hard to see all EU legislation being thrown out. Indeed, many of the workers’ rights edicts are popular with the public, and would prove politically difficult to attack. This is particularly true with holiday entitlement. Furthermore, it’s rightly unforeseeable that discrimination laws would be removed.
It is also worth remembering that there is a two-year transitionary period at the minimum before the UK does leave the EU. During this time, all current EU law will still apply. On top of this, things may not radically alter if Britain decides to stay in the single market, the EEA. Countries like Iceland and Switzerland are a part of this, and they currently still have to follow the vast majority of EU labour laws.
Nevertheless, many areas of EU labour laws have been frequently criticised by the government and business groups. They will be keen to use Brexit to slash unwanted regulations. Here are the areas that will come under particular scrutiny:
• The Agency Workers Regulations 2010: This allows temporary and contract workers to claim the same rights as permanent workers after having worked for a certain amount of time. It was attacked at the time by the government, who saw it as contradicting their aim for labour flexibility. Business owners have also complained about the extra costs associated with it.
• Working Time Rights: The EU decrees that staff cannot be made to work more than 48 hours a week. Again, the Conservative Party and business groups have said that this curtails productivity. As a result, Working Time Rights are highly likely to be in the firing line.
• Sick leave:  Workers are currently entitled to a minimum amount of sick pay. The UK government looks likely to reduce this significantly.
• Health and Safety: According to the health and safety consultants Arinite, ‘small, low-risk’ businesses could see their requirements cut, such as lengthy risk assessments. This could reduce the burden for start-ups. Overall, the majority of health and safety laws will probably remain intact, though.
Is this good or bad for business?
Many argue that EU labour laws are beneficial for all, helping keep workers happy, safe and content. Furthermore, the unitary laws make hiring staff and doing business across the continent easier. Therefore, if your business is heavily involved in trading with Europe, then changes to labour laws could be disruptive.
Others within the business community argue that EU legislation is bureaucratic and counterproductive. For them, streamlined laws may come as a relief, and make everyday business easier.
Ultimately, the extent of change will depend on what kind of post-Brexit settlement is negotiated between Britain and Europe. The true impact may not become clear for some time.