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The “Great Repeal Bill”: How great is it really?

Once the Great Repeal Bill becomes an Act of Parliament it will serve to:

  • Repeal the European Communities Act 1972;

  • Convert all EU law as it stands on 29 March 2019 to UK law; and

  • Allow the UK Government and the devolved administrations the power to make corrective amendments to any converted legislation which would not otherwise make sense.

Under the Act, the laws which apply to the UK will remain the same on the day it exits the EU but the UK will then be in a position to pick and choose the laws it wishes to keep, water-down or repeal altogether.

Of course, legislation is not the only source of our laws. The bill provides for existing case law from the Court of Justice of the European Union to be given the same status as Supreme Court decisions meaning that any case law on exit day will still be binding on UK courts (other than the Supreme Court). After the UK’s exit, Parliament would have the power to create legislation which overrules these cases, something it currently does not have the authority to do.

In employment law, the EU sets a minimum standard for workers’ rights which all member states must meet. In most circumstances, the UK not only meets but exceeds these standards – the common example being that the EU Working Time Directive requires all workers to be allowed 20 days’ paid leave per year while the holiday entitlement provided to workers by UK law is 28 days. This, and other examples, would suggest that, even when the UK leaves the EU and the EU’s minimum standards no longer apply, it is unlikely that the UK Government would then reduce workers’ rights to a position below the EU standard. However, after the exit there would be nothing to stop any future Government from doing this.

What does this mean for you or your business?

Not a lot. Employment law in the UK should be the same the day after the exit from the EU as it was the day before. The only major difference will be the enhanced power of the UK to make changes to employment law.

What do you need to be doing now?

Workers’ rights will only face the possibility of major changes after the bill has converted EU law to UK law giving the UK Parliament the power to make changes to the law.

So far, very little substance has come from the Government on what the changes to employment law may be after the UK leaves the EU. The line we have repeatedly been told is that “worker’s rights will be preserved”. Until then there is nothing for employment lawyers or employers to do differently. Both will have to wait until 2019 before knowing what differences employment law will face in a post-EU world.


These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.

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