Employment Law in the United Kingdom – what differences are there?

Is it a United Kingdom? We thought we’d look in detail at the main differences in Employment Law between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and have updated this for July 2019. Generally there is very little difference in employment law between England and Wales, some differences in Scotland but there are some important differences for employees and employers in Northern Ireland. And we won’t even mention Brexit!!!

Here we summarise the main differences in employment law in the United Kingdom.

Employment law in Northern Ireland

Mostly the law is similar to that in England, Wales and Scotland but the main difference is that employment law is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly (and has been since 1988). Some rules will be found in a different pieces of legislation (to the rest of the UK), sometimes only a portion of the rules will apply in Northern Ireland and often the rules apply from a different date, and so on.  For example:

  • The ACAS code of practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures that applies in Great Britain doesn’t apply in Northern Ireland – the Labour Relations Agency of Northern Ireland has an equivalent (but more detailed) code that was introduced on 3rd April 2011.
  • ACAS doesn’t operate in Northern Ireland (the Labour Relations Agency do instead).
  • The Equality Act 2010 that covers England, Scotland, Wales, is covered in Northern Ireland by:
    • Equal Pay Act (NI) 1970
    • Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976
    • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
    • Race Relations Order 1997
    • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2003
    • Employment Equality (AGE) Regulations (NI) 2006.
  • In addition, Northern Ireland has the Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998 (protection on grounds of religious belief and political opinion), which has no direct equivalent legislation in the rest of the UK.

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