Since the UK joined the EU back in 1978, the European Court of Justice has had the final say on all employment and discrimination law affecting UK businesses and their employees.
UK courts must accommodate European treaties, laws and decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) when bringing in legislation and making decisions. All discrimination law (except for equal pay) is contained within three EU Directives and the UK government is expected to bring in and enforce laws that reflect these.
Should the UK make the decision to leave the EU after going to the polls this week, then the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will no longer have the final word on employment and discrimination laws in the UK.
There have been serval notable cases where the ECJ has stepped in to rule on discrimination cases in the UK courts. One such example is where British Airways found themselves in court due to banning an employee from wearing a crucifix as their company dress policy did not allow jewellery. After the case found its way to the ECJ, they concluded that the UK courts had been wrong to conclude that BA could justify its corporate dress code that banned jewellery on the grounds of maintaining a corporate image.
This policy meant the employee was unable to wear her Christian crucifix and this had breached Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which says that employees have the right to visibly display signs of their faith, and Article 14, which says they should be free from discrimination in the exercise of this freedom.
If the UK left the EU then the practical effect would be that the UK’s Supreme will have the final word in cases. It is however highly unlikely that current employment and discrimination legislation, which has worked well for years, will be abolished or replaced.