18 December 2019
On 12 December 2019, the British general election resulted in a decisive win for the Conservative Party. The majority in parliament is 80. That effectively means that they can pass whatever legislation they want. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has confirmed that he will be bringing his EU withdrawal agreement back to Parliament before Christmas. This is now extremely likely to pass. This means that the UK will almost certainly leave the EU on 31 January 2020. There will then be a transition period until December 31 2020 by which time the UK needs to have negotiated a trade deal with the EU, otherwise the transition period will simply end and there will be a hard Brexit.
From an employment law perspective, the government is no longer promising to retain EU employment law. This means that theoretically employment laws can be repealed at any time. In truth, given the desire for a trade deal with the EU if possible, it is unlikely that there will be any major deviations in terms of EU employment law during 2020. However, a provision in the bill makes it clear for the first time that even low UK courts will not need to be bound by ECJ case law. So there could be divergence on, for example, the issue of holiday pay very soon. Also, the whole arena of unfair dismissal is not covered by EU law and there is a fair chance that the new government, given their desire to become even more business friendly, might reduce rights for individual employees and make it easier for companies to terminate employees who are not performing. We will of course let you know whenever anything is proposed.
In terms of immigration law, a new system will be introduced in 2021 for EU nationals. Prior to then, any EU national in the UK who is registered will be effectively treated as the same as UK workers. Therefore, any non-British EU nationals who are not yet registered should be registered during 2020.
One aspect of employment law that the Conservative Party pledged in their manifesto to reform in favour of individuals is in relation to gig economy workers. The Taylor Report proposed giving clearer rights to those working in the gig economy sector so that there is less doubt as to their entitlements and whether they should be treated as 'workers' or 'employees'. We expect therefore to see legislation on this shortly although nothing has been published at the date of writing.