Cameron’s speech on the UK-EU relationship: five key employment laws influenced by Europe

David Cameron’s speech this morning on the future of the UK’s relationship with the European Union (EU) has made the prospect of the UK Government operating outside the legal systems of the EU a distinct possibility.

The Prime Minister pledged an in/out referendum on Europe by the end of 2017 if the Conservatives win the next general election. He said that if he could renegotiate a relation with the EU that he was happy with, he would campaign for Britain to stay in the union.

But how might a new relationship with the EU affect HR should Cameron be successful in his negotiations? Similarly, what could a Britain outside the EU look like for employers? What European law is the UK currently obliged to comply with?

Here, we detail five key areas of employment law that could be amended or abolished in the light of Cameron’s announcement.

1. Working time

UK law contained in: Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833).
EU law contained in: Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC).
Key areas covered: Maximum weekly working hours; daily rest periods and rest breaks; and annual leave entitlement.
Key areas of controversy: Holiday pay during sick leave.
Key EU case law: Stringer and others v HM Revenue and Customs sub nom Commissioners of Inland Revenue v Ainsworth and others; Schultz-Hoff v Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund (ECJ).

2. Discrimination

UK law contained in: Equality Act 2010
EU law contained in: Equal Treatment Framework Directive (2000/78/EC) and Equal Treatment Directive (2006/54/EC).
Key areas covered: Discrimination based on sex, race, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation.
Key area of controversy: Justification of compulsory retirement.
Key EU case law: R (on the application of the Incorporated Trustees of the National Council on Ageing (Age Concern England)) v Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform ECJ.

3. Redundancy

UK law contained in: Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
EU law contained in: Collective Redundancies Directive (98/59/EC).
Key areas covered: Collective redundancy consultation.
Key area of controversy: Determining when collective redundancy consultation should start.
Key EU case law: Akavan Erityisalojen Keskusliitto AEK Ry and others v Fujitsu Siemens Computers Oy ECJ.


UK law contained in: Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations 2006 (SI 2006/2405).
EU law contained in: Acquired Rights Directive (2001/23/EC).
Key areas covered: Employees’ rights when their employer changes as a result of a transfer of undertakings.
Key area of controversy: Harmonisation of terms and conditions of employment after transfer.
Key EU case law: Foreningen af Arbejdsledere i Danmark v Daddy’s Dance Hall A/S ECJ.

5. Human rights

UK law contained in: Human Rights Act 1998 and Equality Act 2010.
EU law contained in: European Convention on Human Rights.
Key areas covered: Rights to fair and public hearing; freedom of assembly and association; freedom of expression; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and respect for private and family life.
Key area of controversy: Right to manifest religion and beliefs in the workplace.
Key EU case law: Eweida and others v United Kingdom ECHR.

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