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Brexit - Information about the EU exit

The Government has set a deadline to leave the EU on 31 October 2019.

EU membership can impact workplaces in a number of ways, like:

  • providing goods and services to other members of the EU

  • using goods and services provided by other members of the EU

  • employing EU residents

  • having UK employees work in the EU

  • many employment rights come from EU directives

  • court decisions about some employment disputes can be made in the EU courts;

  • supply chain arrangements

  • borders and haulage arrangements

What changes workplaces will experience will depend on how the UK leaves the EU, and the type of future relationship between the UK and the EU.

While final details of the UK's relationship with the EU have not yet been determined, the following general guidance is intended to help employers and employees become familiar with what is currently known and actions that can be taken ahead of exiting the EU. Government guidance on preparing for leaving the EU can be found at https://www.gov.uk/brexit#business.

Changes to legislation

Many UK employment laws around areas like holidays and business transfers currently come from EU directives. Under the provisions of the EU Withdrawal Act these have been written into UK law. This means that on the day after the UK leaves the EU there will be no immediate change in the law affecting employment. What happens in the longer term will be for the UK government and Parliament to decide.

If the UK leaves the EU without reaching a withdrawal agreement the government has provided some technical guidance on what this means for UK organisations. This guidance can be found at www.gov.uk/government/collections/how-to-prepare-if-the-uk-leaves-the-eu-with-no-deal.

Working in the UK

  • EU citizens who have lived in the UK for five years or more when Brexit takes place have the right to work in the UK indefinitely by applying for 'settled status'

  • EU citizens who have lived in the UK for less than five years before Brexit takes place have the right to work in the UK indefinitely by applying for 'pre-settled status' which they can change to 'settled status' when they have lived in the UK for five years or more

  • EU citizens who arrive in the UK after Brexit takes place and want to work will be subject to any rules and agreements that are made between the UK and EU

  • Similar separate agreements have been made with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland

  • EU citizens who have British, Irish or 'dual' citizenship, or have indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK have the right to work in the UK indefinitely and do not need to apply for 'settled status'

Workers can find details of the 'settled status' scheme at https://www.gov.uk/staying-uk-eu-citizen.

Employers should be supportive of employees applying for settled status by helping them where they can through the application process. They can find details of the 'settled status' scheme and how to assist employers at https://euexitbusiness.campaign.gov.uk/.

Employers can find guidance on checking if someone has the right to work in the UK, which will not change until the end of 2020 at least, at https://www.gov.uk/legal-right-work-uk.

Talking about how Brexit affects workers

Employees and employers may have core concerns about the impact exiting the EU might have on their work and want or need to talk to each other. For example, an employer may want to ask if an employee is intending to apply for settled status.

Employees should:

  • know that anything affecting their work is important to their employer too

  • know what they need to discuss, or get help and advice if they are unsure - it can help to write things down in a checklist

  • think about what they want to achieve with a discussion

  • ask their supervisor or manager for some time to discuss something privately

  • take notes about any decisions or actions that need to be taken after the meeting

Employers, managers and supervisors should:

  • understand that it can be difficult for an employee to request a private discussion

  • be mindful of both their own emotions as well as the emotions of their employee

  • be ready to find enough time and a private space to encourage an open discussion

  • be clear about taking decisions or actions, make notes on them, and stick to them

  • arrange a further discussion if they need time to get extra information or advice

Free Acas guidance on handling challenging conversations can be found at Challenging conversations and how to manage them.

Employers should also take steps to encourage and promote awareness of Brexit-related considerations to their employees. Supporting materials can be found at https://euexitbusiness.campaign.gov.uk/.

Appeals against employment tribunal and court decisions

Some UK employment tribunal and court decisions are appealed to EU courts. This arrangement is likely to change when the UK exits the EU.

Some UK employment tribunal and court decisions are appealed to the Council of Europe's European Court of Human Rights. This arrangement, which also applies to countries like Russia and Turkey, is not connected to UK membership of the EU or Brexit and will continue to operate in the same way as it currently does.

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