A British exit from the European Union (EU) could see the repeal of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR), employment lawyers say.
Employment lawyers Recruiter spoke to say an ‘out’ vote on 23 June could pave the way for the unravelling of European legislation implemented in the UK. One such piece of legislation – AWR, originally an EU directive, introduced in October 2011 – gives agency workers the same rights as full-time workers to pay, holiday leave and other benefits after 12 weeks in employment.
Christopher Tutton, partner at employment law firm Irwin Mitchell, told Recruiter that the two years’ notice of an exit from the EU, which the UK would need to give following Brexit, could also be used to water down certain employment rights.
“I think the Working Time Regulations and the AWR are likely to be high on the list of legislation that will be repealed or amended to create a more pro-business labour market,” he added.
However, Simon Rice Birchall, partner at law firm Eversheds, told Recruiter while in theory AWR could be repealed post Brexit, the need to renegotiate trade deals could put paid to this. He said the requirement to comply with EU directives could be the price of negotiating beneficial trading terms.
He gives the example of European Economic Area (EEA) member and non-EU member Norway.
“As a result of being allowed in the EEA, it [Norway] has most of the trading concessions that EU states have got in terms of tariffs, free movement of goods.
“In return for getting that concession, Norway has historically had to implement many of the directives.”
As for the wider considerations for recruiters of moving talent to and from the EU into the UK, David Whincup, labour & employment partner at law firm Squire Patton Boggs, does not see wholesale changes in the freedom of labour movement into the UK.
“In theory, the automatic right of EU citizens to travel and work in the UK would end, as would the right of UK citizens to travel and work in the EU,” Whincup told Recruiter.
“In reality, however, changes to freedom of movement would depend on any exit package that is agreed post referendum. It is unlikely that freedom of movement for EU/UK citizens would disappear completely following an ‘out’ vote.”
As the opposing In and Out campaigns get into fill swing, bosses from big UK employers including BT, Marks & Spencer and Vodafone signed a letter in yesterday’s Times claiming Brexit would threaten jobs and put the UK's economy at risk.
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