BREXIT: What will it mean for employers?

BREXIT: What will it mean for employers?


Author: Katy Meves

Applies to: UK wide

It has recently been claimed that up to 400 football players would lose the right to play here if the UK votes to leave the EU, we consider some of the implications for employers generally.

On 23 June 2016 there will be a UK-wide referendum to decide whether we will continue to be a member of the European Union (EU) or leave and 'go it alone' the so called, BREXIT. Undoubtedly, a vote to leave the EU would be a seismic shift into new territory, with many of the consequences (both positive and negative) unknown.

At the moment it seems that the result is too close to call. So, while the claims and counter-claims of the 'in' and 'out' camps continue in an attempt to sway public opinion, employers need to plan for the possibility of BREXIT and its consequences.

Might specific employment regulations might be repealed?

Unlike some areas, much of the UK's employment legislation has come from or is based on EU law. It therefore seems unlikely that there will be a wholescale repeal of all 'European' employment legislation from a single, set date. It may be that for political reasons some regulations are repealed on a piecemeal basis where there is pressure to do so. For example, in the current climate trade union laws might be ripe for repeal or amendment.

Alternatively, it may be decided that although no new European legislation will be implemented following the referendum existing legislation will be kept.

However, the law doesn't stand still and the question would then be whether our courts and tribunals would continue to be influenced by decisions on the relevant European law at a European level (even if they weren't technically bound by them)?

Might the UK introduce new employment legislation?

Even after a vote for BREXIT new employment legislation is inevitable albeit that it is likely to be at a slower pace than we have been used to. For example, the chancellor has committed to introducing 'Grandparent Leave' next year - not a European idea. National minimum wage and unfair dismissal legislation is also 'home grown' so may be subject to change.

What about EU workers currently working in the UK?

The free movement of workers is one of the fundamental principles of the EU and so that would be a big issue to be resolved in the event of BREXIT. Would EU workers continue with some sort of favoured status or would they be made subject to stricter controls which currently apply to non-EU nationals and what would happen to UK employees currently working in Europe?

Much of the legislation requires employers to police immigration status by carrying out pre-employment checks so this could be a big increase in work for organisations which currently employ lots of EU nationals or are part of an EU group of companies.

What action will HR need to take if the vote were in favour of leaving?

Obviously we have to wait and see how any exit was to be implemented and this would not happen overnight. For the time being obligations would be simply to continue to comply with existing legislation.


For now, the only certainty is uncertainty and this is likely to continue at least until the outcome of the referendum is known. For some sectors BREXIT may have an impact on business and so, indirectly result in redundancies, restructuring or even, increased recruitment. While the future may be hard to predict, HR can expect a busy time regardless of the result!