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What happens if Scotland votes to end the Union?

Nick Thorpe
09/09/2014
A lot of the recent debate on the Scottish independence vote has focused on the economic consequences of a 'yes' vote, with a particular focus on whether or not there would be a currency union.  But A lot of the recent debate on the Scottish independence vote has focused on the economic consequences of a 'yes' vote, with a particular focus on whether or not there would be a currency union.  But whichever way the vote goes next week, it is likely to bring about changes to employment laws in Scotland, with Gordon Brown indicating yesterday more timely devolved powers to the Scottish Government in relation to the work and benefit programme in the event of a 'no' vote.

Such changes would have an impact on all businesses with UK wide operations (whether they are registered in Scotland, England & Wales or overseas).  At this stage the detail is rather thin, and the nature of changes would depend upon which party is elected, both in Scotland and in Westminster over the next two years; but the current Scottish government has indicated, in its white paper on an independent Scotland, certain areas where it would look to make changes to Scotland's employment laws.  These include changes to the national minimum wage regime, as well as the reversal of certain recent employment law reforms in relation to tribunal fees, the qualifying period and compensatory cap for unfair dismissal claims, and restoring the 90 day consultation period for redundancies affecting 100 or more employees.  This last proposal could have particularly complicated implications for UK wide employers who propose large scale redundancies across its entire UK organisation following the Woolies decision, which removed the "at one establishment" requirement from the collective redundancy consultation test.

While it may be too tight to call which way the Scottish independence vote will go next week, it is clear from the statements made by the 'no' campaign this week that whatever the outcome, the Scottish government will have greater powers in relation to employment legislation and the work programme, and that, over time, we are likely to see a divergence in employment law in Scotland and England & Wales.  Of course, we are some way from any of these changes becoming law, but employers with UK wide operations should start thinking now (as part of their contingency planning) how they might deal with a future regime involving dual conflicting jurisdictions.

 

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