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Employment law

Major implications


Free movement of workers

One of the pillars of the EU treaties is the free movement of workers.

This basic principle has been realised in the EU through (a) the absence of mobility restrictions for EU workers, (b) Regulations that coordinate workers’ social security rights and benefits and (c) Directives that harmonise employment laws.

Brexit (scheduled for the first quarter of 2019) will have a serious impact on this automatic right to travel and work freely across the EU.

  • Treaty and Regulations

 The free movement of workers will in principle continue to apply until Brexit.

It is unclear whether the EU and the UK will enter into a specific bilateral/multilateral agreement governing free movement for workers. If not, expats will no longer be able to rely on the principle of free movement for workers as soon as the UK exits the EU. Stricter requirements on immigration documentation (visa/work permit) could apply, which could impact on recruitment from/to Belgium/UK.

Social security rights and benefits (pension, unemployment, sick benefits) might no longer be guaranteed as they are now, as the coordination of social security legislation will in principle no longer apply after Brexit.

  • EU Directives

EU Directives are the basis for a number of employment rights, such as working time, holiday entitlement, health and safety, anti-discrimination, business transfers (TUPE), collective redundancies and EWC participation.

In principle, the UK will still have to transpose any EU Directive that comes into force between now and the effective date of Brexit, although it is uncertain whether this will in practice be the case. After Brexit, EU Directives will no longer apply in the UK. Whether there will be changes in UK legislation remains unclear. Driven by a sense of deregulation, some consider that the UK may deprive employees of certain rights in order to make business more flexible. Such policies could impact on cross-border employment.

Data protection of HR data

GDPR comes into force on 25 May 2018, which means that the UK has to comply with the new regulation for the time being. After the effective date of Brexit, the UK will become a 'third country': in cases where HR data is transferred from Belgium to the UK, adequate protection for the rights of employees will have to be guaranteed (by an adequacy decision of the European Commission, EU Model Clauses, approved Binding Corporate Rules or an EU-UK Privacy Shield).

To do


  • Keep a close watch on the negotiation process and future changes in (international) employment/social security legislation and be prepared to respond swiftly to any developments
  • Map your expat workforce and prepare for the post-Brexit reality
  • Review cross-border employment (expat-secondment) contracts between Belgium and the UK
  • Check status of GDPR and be prepared for transfer of data to a third country
  • Review your contracts with UK third-party providers on data protection compliance


If you have any questions, send us an e-mail (
or contact Alexander Vandenbergen, + 32 2 787 90 75 or
or Jan Hofkens, + 32 2 787 90 38,


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