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Great Repeal Bill - What Does It Mean for Employment Law?

on Friday, 07 April 2017.

The government has announced further plans to implement the Great Repeal Bill, which will see thousands of EU laws transferred into UK law on the day that the UK leaves the EU.

What Is the Great Repeal Bill?

The Great Repeal Bill aims to end the European Union's legal supremacy in the UK by converting all EU legislation into UK law as soon as the UK leaves the EU. The Bill contains three main elements:

  • It will repeal the European Communities Act 1972, the historic law that took Britain into the EU and gives EU law instant effect in the UK. 
  • it will convert all EU law into UK law to prevent a legal black hole after Brexit. Thousands of European laws, regulations and directives will be turned into UK law before Brexit is completed in mid-2019. 
  • it will create the necessary powers for MPs to change these laws using secondary legislation once Britain has left the EU, as negotiations over the UK's future relationship with its European partners continue.Major amendments or new laws may be put forward in separate bills.

The Bill will be formally introduced in the Queen's Speech in May, before it is voted through Parliament by MPs and Peers. With more than 12,000 EU laws currently in force,the House of Commons library has warned it will be one of the largest legislative processes "ever undertaken" in the UK.

Reaction to the Bill

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, says the Great Repeal Bill means the UK "will be an independent sovereign nation" and the CBI has welcomed the "clarity and continuity" of the Bill, announcing that it would speak to ministers after Brexit with the hope of cutting EU red tape.

Unions have also called for guarantees that workers' rights, such as full holiday pay and equal gender pay, will be protected once the new bill comes into force.

How Will the Bill Affect Employment Practice?

The introduction of the Great Repeal Bill is not expected to have a significant impact on employment law generally, as EU-derived law is so embedded in UK law that it would be very complex to unpick. The government has stated on more than one occasion that employment rights will not be eroded as a result of Brexit. However, the exact impact is largely unknown at this stage and much may depend upon how the UK's negotiations with the EU develop.

It may be that following Brexit, the UK will seek to maintain the status quo and start addressing particular laws individually over time, either by repealing or amending them.

We will continue to keep you updated of any changes that occur as a result of the Great Repeal Bill.

For more information, please contact Michael Halsey in our Employment team on 020 7665 0842.

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