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Brexit: How working terms and conditions could be affected

The EU referendum is next month. Aisling Byrne from Cleaver Fulton Rankin considers the implications of Brexit for employment law here

Recent polls suggest that the outcome of the referendum is too close to call and with that in mind, employers should consider the possibility that the UK (and as a consequence, Northern Ireland) may vote to leave the EU.

How would an exit affect employment law in Northern Ireland?

Much of Northern Ireland's employment legislation is derived from EU Law (anti-discrimination law, TUPE, Working Time, and agency workers) and in theory a Brexit could pave the way for Northern Ireland to repeal EU-based employment laws.

However, in reality that is unlikely to happen in the immediate aftermath of a Brexit given that it is likely to take two years to finalise an exit.

Some of the areas that may be affected are as follows:

Working Time

The Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 are derived from the EU Working Time Directive. Whilst it is unlikely that Northern Ireland will abolish the minimum amount of paid holidays, it is possible that legislation could be introduced to simplify rules such as how to calculate holiday pay and accrual of holiday pay during sick leave.

Discrimination law

Protections against discrimination are unlikely to be subject to radical change given that many rights were in place before Northern Ireland was required to implement EU Law requirements. Northern Ireland would be free however to introduce changes such as a cap on discrimination compensation.


Again, it is unlikely that the TUPE Regulations would be abolished. It is more likely that legislation could be introduced to make it easier for employers to harmonise terms of employment following a TUPE transfer or provisions to relax the information and consultation requirements.

Free movement of workers

This is a fundamental principle of EU law. Immigration control is a hot political topic and in the event of a Brexit we may see the introduction of stricter controls on EU workers entering the UK to work. We may see changes to the rights of UK citizens to work in the EU.

Whilst the outcome of the Brexit referendum is hard to predict and the immediate impact from an employment law perspective may be minimal, employers reliant on EU workers will be monitoring the outcome very closely.

Aisling Byrne is an associate at Belfast law firm Cleaver Fulton Rankin. She specialises in employment law and also lectures on the MSC course in digital media communication at Ulster University

Belfast Telegraph