Europe – in or out?

Sheila Fahy

Over the next few years the question of whether the UK should remain a member of the EU will be hotly debated by stakeholders, and will culminate in a referendum of the people. Believe it or not, being in the EU has almost nothing to do with straight bananas and the Euro-sausage but much to do with employment rights and regulations. And as an employment lawyer I take more than a passing interest in the subject.

So what has Europe done for the workers and business? For starters, it has given us rules and case law on virtually every area of the employment relationship, from data protection to discrimination, collective redundancies to CRD IV, parental rights to posted workers. My own favourite is the Working Time Directive. I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this: the provenance of countless interesting legal points lead back to this directive, as do hundreds of hours grappling with how to apply ECJ judgments on working time to conflicting domestic law. And even at a Member State level, the British Government fought with everything it had to retain the 48-hour opt-out. Who would have thought that a humble directive regulating the maximum number of working hours as well as giving workers an annual holiday entitlement could generate so much passion?

EuropeThere can be no doubt that EU membership has added layer upon layer of protection for workers. But from an employer’s perspective many (particularly SMEs) have struggled to keep up with the raft of rights, red-tape and costs that go with the protection. Is it all worth it? Looking back at developments since the date of entry into Europe in 1973, I think British workplaces have generally benefitted from our membership. I for one will be voting to stay in.

Comments published on Employment Talk do not necessarily reflect the views of Allen & Overy.

Read comments below or add a comment
  1. Sarah Henchoz says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that, despite the fact that so many of our employment laws derive from Europe, the way in which they are implemented in each member state is so different. Increasingly the work we do has a large cross-border element (often involving projects spanning many different countries) with clients seeking to get consistency across their policies and practices in all of the countries in which they operate. Navigating through the jurisdictional differences whilst retaining the corporate identity is key and enables clients to properly implement and manage global practices.

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