EU-derived laws still set to expire on 31 December 2023
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill has completed its progression through the House of Commons after passing its third reading on 18 January 2023. It must now be debated and passed in the House of Lords before it can gain Royal Ascent and come into effect. However, it is moving quickly through parliament and seems likely it will be accepted.
The Bill could have huge implications for employers as it will automatically repeal any retained EU law on 31 December 2023, unless new legislation is introduced to keep it. Laws that are subject to review, and could be changed or repealed at the end of this year, include those relating to TUPE, the right to paid annual leave, the maximum 48 hour working week, agency workers, part-time and fixed-term employees.
Many fundamental workers’ rights embedded in UK legislation originate from the EU, including holiday pay, pregnancy and maternity rights, rest breaks, data protection, collective consultation, contractual terms and more. However, this is not to say that these will all change following the review. On the whole, it’s expected that employees’ rights and employers’ obligations will remain largely as they are. The areas identified in the paragraph above appear to be the ones most at risk of being repealed or changed, but this is still to be confirmed by the government.
At its final reading in the House of Commons, Ministers called for amendments to the Bill, including pushing back the deadline date, known as the “sunset clause” at which legislation will expire, from 31 December 2023 to 31 December 2026. MPs also wanted to make it a requirement for the government to provide a full list of all legislation to be revoked by the Bill. However, these amendments were rejected.
Many are concerned that such a short deadline to consider all retained EU laws will lead to workers’ rights being weakened, and confusion and uncertainty for employers and HR professionals. Such worries were heightened by the announcement that a further 1400 EU-derived laws have been identified as falling within scope of the review, in addition to the 2400 affected laws the government had already released.
Employers and HR teams will undoubtedly face challenges over the coming months, to stay up to date with changes and assess how these may impact their organisation and workforce. However, it’s important to remember that the Bill still has a number of stages it must progress through in the House of Lords before it can come into law.
Its next stage, the second reading in the House of Lords, does not yet have a scheduled date. This being said, it’s likely the government will want to complete the process as soon as reasonably possible, to ensure they have enough time to complete the review and publish their decisions, in line with the 31 December 2023 deadline.