Employment lawyers have warned that if the UK leaves the EU there would be a tough task in rewriting the contracts for temporary workers.
Agency Workers Regulations (AWR), an EU law that affects temporary and contract workers, would not be repealed immediately but it could cause administrative problems for those who handle the contracts and terms and conditions of employment during the transition phase. The Vote Leave Campaign has just published details of its plans for life after Brexit and one of the recommendations made is a suggested amendment for the European Communities Act 1972, which led to the AWR, but not an immediate repeal. This would wait until the negotiations with the EU have been completed and a new treaty between the UK and the EU is in place.
The Communities Act allows for EU laws to be made part of UK law, and the Vote Leave plan is for the UK government to determine which parts of EU law should be kept, removed or just changed as needed. This could mean that there are changes to AWR, a regulation that originated in the EU. It was introduced in the UK in October 2011 and allows agency workers to have the same rights as full-time workers when it comes to holiday entitlement, pay and a number of other benefits once they have been working at the same place for a period of 12 weeks.
In the event of Brexit, companies will continue to follow the existing regulations and it will be up to the government to determine if these will cease to exist. However, employment law experts have warned that recruiters will not be able to just nullify contracts for temporary workers, even if the UK does decide to repeal AWR and other EU regulations.
Employers that attempt to change contracts without prior agreement could face claims for constructive dismissal or breach of contract. It may also be the case that the government retains some of the EU regulations in order to ensure a good relationship afterwards with other European nations.
It has been the case that some countries such as Norway have had to adopt some EU regulations in order to reach trade agreements with EU nations and the UK could find itself in the same position. Experts have suggested that EU regulations would be reviewed by the authorities and amended as necessary rather than abandoned en masse, ensuring that there are still routes for negation as the country exists the single market.