Government pours water on its "bonfire of employment rights" as reality dawns
Last year, we warned our clients that they needed to brace themselves for change, following the introduction of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, which gave the government the freedom (in theory) to set fire to all employment and health and safety legislation derived from the EU. We (along with most other employment law professionals) were concerned that important employment law protections would disappear by the end of 2023, by virtue of the so-called 'sunset clause' which would have revoked hundreds of pieces of retained EU law by default, unless the government took steps to keep them.
At that stage the government had identified over 2,400 pieces of retained EU law across 300 unique policy areas and 21 sectors of the economy that it had to review within 15 months. That turned out to be rather wide of the mark, after the government discovered hundreds of additional regulations and laws that also needed to be reviewed. We said at the time that was an impossible task - something the government now acknowledges (albeit not in those terms).
That Bill is still making its way through the parliamentary process, but the government has changed the way the sunset clause will operate. In a written statement to MPs, Kemi Badenoch (the Secretary of State for Business and Trade) acknowledged that the original clause would have created 'legal uncertainty' and a new approach is needed.
The government has identified the laws that it intends to revoke by the end of the year, which are set out in a list. There's around 600 included. Any laws not on this list will remain binding in the UK after 31 December 2023.
As it stands, there does not appear to be any significant employment laws being scrapped and businesses will be able to carry on as normal.
The government is planning on making some changes to employment law which we explained here and has now launched a consultation to obtain views on these. But, it's scaled back its ambitions (at least for now) and appears to be taking the much more sensible approach of looking at each piece of legislation properly, compiling a list of pros and cons to decide if it needs to amend, clarify, or in exceptional cases, delete EU derived legislation. That will take time and we may have a different government in less than two years time who adopt a different approach.
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