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. Negotiations then took place for 11 months, resulting in an agreement about how the future relationship between the UK and the EU would be managed. The agreement contains a ‘non-regression’ arrangement as far as employment law and workers’ rights are concerned. In practical terms this means that as of 2021 the UK is no longer bound to follow EU law in the field of employment, but has agreed not to reduce the level of existing social protection in such a way as to distort competition.
This factsheet for CIPD members explains the EU’s impact on UK employment law and how EU social policy is made by the Council of Ministers and the EU Parliament. This then becomes directives and regulations, which must become part of member states’ national laws. It describes the enforcement role played to date by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and how this will change as a result of the UK’s departure from the European Union. This factsheet also discusses the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill that is likely to become law in the UK in 2023.
CIPD member content
This content is only available for CIPD members
If you’re already a CIPD member, please sign in to access this content
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.
Access over 1500 customisable contracts, policies, letters, case law, and other HR tools, with CIPD members enjoying a 50% discount.
Discover our practice guidance and recommendations to tackle bullying and harassment in the workplace.
Explore our collection of resources around legal issues surrounding stress and wellbeing in the workplace
Explore our collection of resources around legal issues relating to religion and belief discrimination in the workplace, including philosophical beliefs
Explore our collection of resources and Q&As covering the recruitment process, from pre-employment checks and case law, to employing overseas workers
Understand what we mean by skills in the workplace, UK skill levels and the government’s skills policy.
Introduces data protection law in the UK, covering the obligations of employers and individual rights to accessing information.