Gill Taylor: Brexit remains a major issue as we enter 2017

November's Autumn Statement was almost silent on employment issues but expect changes ahead, writes our columnist

Gill Taylor
Gill Taylor

Brexit will rumble on and there are three main issues that I can foresee for employment and human resources. First, there is the overall state of the economy and business confidence. This has a massive impact on employment generally and on disposable income, which affects charity income. This then affects our sustainability agenda and how much "churn" we are likely to face.

Second, the impact of border controls, immigration rules and the free movement of people. If you employ people from the European Union or from other countries outside the EU, then immigration controls will become harsher, so watch out for changes in this area.

The third impact of Brexit is that we won't be subject in UK legislation to new EU directives, although there's not a lot on the EU agenda that might have made a massive impact. As I have said in this column before, it is really unlikely that the UK will unpick the old EU directives and their impact on working time and equality issues, for example. However, directives take time to implement in any country's own law, but EU regulations come into force immediately. So any new regulations from the EU that come into force between now and the "great repeal bill" will become part of UK legislation and it will then be up to the government to decide whether to abandon or amend them after Brexit actually happens. This introduces a degree of uncertainty as to what the situation will be from 2020 onwards.

Employment status issues are also likely to persist. The legal boundaries between employees, workers and the genuinely self-employed have come under increased scrutiny in recent months. For example, in October 2016 self-employed Uber drivers brought a case that they are workers and should be paid the minimum wage. The tribunal hearing the case has judged that they are indeed workers, with the result that their claims can go ahead.

An inquiry is under way focusing on the status and rights of agency workers, the self-employed and those working in the "gig economy". Even this government seems to be aware that there is a weight of opinion that the current balance of employment rights versus business needs is not set in the right place and has resulted in exploitation of workers.

Whether the government can come up with a new way of categorising the work of individuals in the "precariat" to provide increased security and protecting workers' rights without threatening the flexibility that business demands is a conundrum. The easy answer, of course, is "just give them more rights".

The Autumn Statement in November was almost silent on employment issues, announcing only that the national living wage for the over-25s will rise to £7.50 from April 2017.

Gill Taylor is a sector HR consultant

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