The fact remains that whether Britain decides to stay or leave, it will likely have a significant effect on health and safety for UK businesses. Will this be for better or for worse…. Or will it just be the status quo?
There has been a strong history of health and safety legislation in the UK. However, Current health and safety legislation is a bit of a mixed bag at the moment. Both UK law and EU directives have combined to produce what exists currently. So what would happen after the Brexit vote?
If a majority votes for Britain to part company with the EU, Britain will be free to regulate as it sees fit. But, there would still be a grace period whereby the existing legislation that stems from EU directives would continue to apply here in Britain. The likelihood is that we would see little change, at least in the short term anyway. Drafting new UK laws is far from being an overnight process. It may be that current EU derived legislation will have to be re-hashed into UK law.
However, there is still the option that an independent Britain would still seek to maintain membership of the European Trade Organisation (EFTA). In the interest of continuing to trade closely with other European member states, Britain would then be forced to comply with a number of laws that the European Free Trade enforces. So could this mean ‘business as usual’?
There is also the social and political impact. A Conservative government that leaves the EU will still want to remain as popular as it can to remain in power. Simply disregarding legislation designed to protect people at work will hardly be well received by constituents.
On the other hand if the majority votes to remain, a re-negotiation of membership terms will likely follow. One of the fundamental arguments for a leave vote is the perceived imposed burdens on SMEs. So reducing that burden will no doubt feature high on the agenda. This could lead to a thinning out of costly, burdensome regulations that need to be considered against issues mentioned earlier.
So what will happen in reality? Well we will just have to wait and see. Whatever the result, it is unlikely that we will see any immediate impact. But change will happen in time; That much is inevitable…