Employment law in the UK is derived mainly from acts of parliament and case law. European law became a further source after 1973 when the UK joined the European Economic Community (subsequently the European Union) and the impact of the EU on employment regulation grew considerably when the UK joined the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty in 1997.

The UK formally left the European Union on 31 January 2020. Following negotiations, the agreement about how the relationship between the UK and the EU is managed contains a ‘non-regression’ clause with regards to employment law and workers’ rights. In practical terms this means that as of 2021 the UK is no longer bound to follow EU law in the field of employment. The UK has agreed not to reduce the level of existing social protection in such a way as to distort competition. The main law brought in for the UK to choose what EU law to retain and amend, is the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 (RUEL). The act is used to ‘fast track’ legislation through parliament. In the field of UK employment law, RUEL was used in November 2023 to raise the Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023. The regulations both retain and adapt some EU employment law which would have otherwise been lost on 31 December 2023. RUEL is likely to also be used beyond December 2023 to raise subsequent legislation. 

This factsheet explains the context of EU employment law and the how it will be impacted in future. CIPD members can access up-to-date information on how RUEL is being used to shape UK employment law on our Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act employment law page.

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This factsheet was last updated by Stephen Taylor: Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management (HRM), University of Exeter Business School and former Chief Examiner for the CIPD

Stephen is a frequent speaker at HR conferences and Acas events for employers, and has regularly represented parties in employment tribunals. He also undertakes HR consultancy, tutoring and training work, and previously worked in a variety of HR management roles in the hotel industry and in the NHS.


​Please note: While every care has been taken in compiling this content, CIPD cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. These notes are not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.

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