Out, but not over…

It’s happened!  After years of uncertainty – of ‘Will we?’, ‘Won’t we?’ – the UK finally left the EU on 31 January 2020.  And whether you were for or against Big Ben bonging to mark our exit (it didn’t bong in the event and, frankly, unless you lived within a ten mile radius of the mighty bell, you wouldn’t have heard it anyway) we are all surely in agreement that the really hard work now begins, both in securing trade deals and working out what our future relationship with the EU will look like. 

For employment law, it’s still not clear what our connection with the European Court of Justice (CJEU) will be.  In theory, after the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, the ECJ will have no jurisdiction in the UK, but it may be that a requirement for alignment with the EU for trade purposes will mean a close connection has to be maintained.  

Decisions made by the CJEU during the transition phase will be binding on UK courts, and automatically enshrined in law but, as it stands, secondary legislation may be issued by the Government that may allow all domestic courts to interpret law without reference to CJEU judgments.

The truth is that nobody (apart from the PM and a few cabinet ministers) knows right now what the UK will have to agree to in order to secure trade deals, but we do know that up to now, the EU has always required a level playing field approach to trade to prevent a country gaining an unfair advantage.  It may be, of course, that the Government decides that close alignment is too high a price to pay and will look elsewhere to secure deals.  And so, as we all guessed, the tale, if not the high drama, of our exit from the EU continues.

In other employment law news…

The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill has now passed through Parliament and will come into effect on 6 April 2020. The legislation (known as Jack’s Law, in memory of Jack Herd who died aged only 23 months) will mean that for the first time bereaved parents will have a ‘day one’ right to statutory leave if they have a child under 18 who dies, or they suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks’ pregnancy. They will also be entitled to statutory pay, if they have 26 weeks’ continuous service.  Jack’s father was told that he could have three days’ leave from work, one of which had to be for little Jack’s funeral. 

On the one hand, maybe we should be proud to live in a country that legislates to help parents when tragedy strikes but, on the other, perhaps shocked and dismayed that such legislation is necessary in what we believe to be enlightened and compassionate times.  It really does beggar belief!

More radical changes are also likely to hit employers with the introduction of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s new technical guidance on Sexual harassment and harassment at work, which the CEO of the Commission expects will become a statutory code.  The new requirements are quite ground breaking and employers failing to comply may find they have no statutory defence to rely on.

We’ll be reviewing all the above on the Spring 2020 Law on Tour, as well as discussing loads more, including the actions employers should take concerning menopausal employees; what to do when an employee goes AWOL; reviewing all important case law; and how and when it’s appropriate to conduct S111A(Employment Rights Act 1996), or without prejudice, discussions.

We’d love to see you on one of the 14 dates, which start on 20 April in London.  The venues fill up very quickly, so be sure to book early to secure the venue of your choice.

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