June 16, 2016
A more nuanced and balanced view from both leave and remain campaigns on how the EU Referendum will affect employees is needed, a leading HR authority has warned. Commenting on how the outcome of the EU Referendum will affect employees, Professor of Human Resources Chris Rowley, at Cass Business School, said: “The deluge of increasingly extreme polar dichotomy arguments and claims regarding possible post-Brexit life also applies to the critical area of work and employment where the Remain and Leave camps have some of their greatest internal tensions and contradictions. Both sides betray a lack of historical and contemporary grounding and analysis of both employee relations and politics. One problem is that there is much counterfactual argument of causation – what would have happened anyway.” In the short term and possibly even in the longer term he says that a Brexit vote would be unlikely to impact employment law, as so much is already enshrined at work.
Nevertheless – he says we need to recall four simple matters about employment protection and rights:
- The status of employment regulation as some existed pre-EU, some is not EU-driven and some is EU-derived. Employment regulations have a mixed heritage.
- Much depends on the post-Brexit UK-EU relationship. Negotiations would be lengthy and complex, and retaining EU employment law may be part of any new deal.
- The power of social norms and expectations remain. Many employment protections have become accepted and expected workplace norms, they reflect good HR practice, and employers may not want to abandon existing policies given their significance in recruitment, retention and image.
- The importance of ‘Realpolitik’ is over-arching. Politicians wishing re-election would surely see little political advantage in allowing employers to discriminate against people, removing employment rights.
Says Professor Rowley: “Like all the other areas in the Brexit debate, it is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty how UK employment may change. The most likely scenario is business-as-usual in the short term, as rules are unlikely to change dramatically in a sudden radical departure from the status quo.
“Even in the long term – and irrespective of the employment rights consequences of any new UK-EU relationship – so much employment regulation is now established as good practice that any attempt at unravelling it will not only be complex and slow, but be seen as regressive and counter-productive – and so undesirable for not only employees but also employers and politicians.”