The most significant legislative development for employers in the Oil & Gas sector this year is the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (the “Bill”).
Many key UK employment protection statutes were introduced as a consequence of our membership of the European Union.
Following Brexit, there has been speculation as to the future of EU-derived law and any impact on employers.
The published plan is that, by the end of 2023, the Bill will abolish all EU laws not specifically reinstated or replaced by the UK Parliament.
The question will then be, does the UK retain specific EU-derived legislation in the present form, revise the detail or remove it entirely?
It is unlikely that the deadline will be met, however, the action must be taken by June 2026.
What will this mean for UK employers?
Working Time Regulations (“WTR”)
Historically, the O&G sector has been at the forefront of litigation relating to this area of law – as a consequence of offshore shift pattern working and the relationship with rest breaks and holiday leave/ holiday pay.
This area of the law could see change although there is no indication to suggest that the present government will increase the legislative burden on employers.
The TUPE Regulations cover the protection of employees/obligations on employers in (1) asset purchase transactions and (2) change of service provider situations.
Both of these scenarios are of importance to the sector and any change to the existing regulations relating to the protection of terms, consultation of employees and protective awards could be significant.
Any change to employee protection based on “protected characteristics” including disability, sex and race/ethnic origin may impact the sector.
It would be a surprise for the fundamental principles to be watered down.
Agency Workers Regulations
Agency Workers Regulations are relevant to the sector – it is possible that the obligations relating to the use of agency workers may be relaxed.
An important point for employment lawyers and HR professionals is that where EU law does remain in force in the UK it will be “assimilated in the domestic statute book” which means interpretation will change.
Domestic courts will have “greater discretion to depart from retained case law”.
The implications of this change to interpretation should not be underestimated.
The next couple of years will be fascinating for employment lawyers and HR professionals employers need to be live to any significant changes.
Any movement will depend on the political will of Parliament.
The large majority held by the Conservative Party would suggest that any changes to employment law are more likely to lessen rather than increase the burden on employers.
Stuart Robertson is head of employment at Gilson Gray. For more information visit www.gilsongray.co.uk