The UK’s regulatory watchdog has slated the government’s impact assessment of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022 (which will end the special status of retained EU law introduced at the time of Brexit) as not “fit for purpose”.

The bill, which is currently going through parliament, aims to “sunset” more than 2,400 pieces of retained EU legislation on 31 December 2023, unless a departmental review before that date proposes that some of the laws should be retained, changed or delayed until 2026.

Although the government claims that ending the special status of retained EU law will allow it to “reclaim the sovereignty of parliament, and restore primacy to acts of parliament”, Richard Arthur, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors, has highlighted the huge impact it would have on workers’ rights (weekly LELR 791).

For instance, unless preserved by specific regulations, protections such as the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, the Working Time Regulations, regulations protecting atypical workers (such as agency workers) and certain health and safety regulations, would potentially cease to apply. Various areas of protection from discrimination would also potentially cease to apply – such as some of the protections for equal pay for work of equal value.

The bill will affect legislation implemented under specific powers in the European Communities Act 1972, but also legislation introduced for the purpose of implementation of EU obligations, such as some parental leave rights.

The Regulatory Policy Committee, an independent body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has said that the government’s impact assessment accompanying the Bill is “not fit for purpose” with regard to any of the 2,400 regulatory measures. Moreover, it says that the department “has not sufficiently considered, or sought to quantify, the full impacts of the bill”.

It points out that: “No impacts for changes to individual pieces of [retained EU law] have been assessed at this stage. We asked the department to commit to assessing the impact of changed and sunsetted legislation, for RPC scrutiny in the future, but the department has not made a firm commitment to do so. Our opinion also highlights further areas for improvement in the [Impact Assessment]”.

In its damning conclusion, the RPC states that: “As the independent Better Regulation watchdog, it is our view that those affected by regulatory change should reasonably expect the government to properly consider the impacts of such changes. We are not assured that the impact of changing or sunsetting each piece of REUL will be calculated or understood under proposals currently in place - particularly where no related secondary legislation is required”.

To read the RPC’s opinion in full, click here.