You will have all seen in the press yesterday that the Government has begun issuing its guidance for business on how to prepare in the event that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March without a deal. Among the press noise is a short guidance note on workplace rights.

The note covers all workplace rights including the Working Time Regulations and TUPE, but does not cover immigration. The Government confirms what we already know – that the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 brings across the powers from EU Directives so that UK workers will continue to be entitled to their rights which come from EU law on day one after Brexit. Probably the largest copy and paste exercise in history!

In the guidance note the Government highlights that domestic legislation already goes further than the minimum EU protection required. The Government states in the note that there will be ‘small amendments to the language of workplace legislation’ to reflect Brexit, but that these will not change existing policy. The intention is to create legal certainty so that workers know their rights remain unchanged, including the employment rights of those working in the UK on a temporary basis.

There are two exceptions to this, which may affect some employers and employees immediately in the event of no deal. Firstly, the rights to certain protections relating to pay and pension on an employer’s insolvency may be affected for employees working in the EU. Those working in the UK will remain unaffected. Secondly, no new requests to set up a European Works Council or Information and Consultation Procedure will be able to be made.

Of course, if we walk away from a deal with the EU then there is legally nothing to stop any future UK Government legislating differently from the EU on workplace rights, although the current Government has clearly indicated that there is no intention to make policy changes. Given how entrenched employment rights are in the UK it seems unlikely that large scale changes would get political backing any time soon.