On 22 September 2022, the UK Government published its Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (REUL). Under this bill, all retained EU law will be revoked on 31 December 2022 (or at a later date prior to 23 June 2026, if a consensus to delay is reached) unless MPs take steps to codify it into UK law. The Bill also hands Ministers general powers to remove regulations in the future.
Whether we now need, or want, to have these EU-based regulations is the question posed by REUL.
What laws are changing?
The Bill currently impacts around 2,400 regulations across 21 Government departments, but some of the key pieces of health and safety legislation affected are:
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR)
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
- Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013
- Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM15)
- UK Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation 2019 (UK REACH)
The sheer extent of legislation caught by the Bill means it has the potential to affect most, if not all, businesses in the UK. To date, around 2,000 pieces of REUL have not yet been amended, repealed or replaced.
Why does this matter?
Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015
CDM15 a regulation based on an EU directive, creating a framework for health and safety during and after construction projects. The recent Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA) will soon be supported by a new secondary legislation which imposes further requirements on the ‘dutyholders’ – defined in CDM15 –who work on higher-risk residential buildings.
If CDM15 is removed (as it might happen under the REUL reform) where would that leave health and safety in construction? Maybe an underlying plank of the new BSA broken before the Act has even been fully implemented?
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
MHSWR is probably the most significant health and safety regulation – the foundation of risk assessments and health and safety management; it truly is unthinkable that it might accidentally be lost under the swing of this bill’s sledgehammer.
UK Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation 2019
The removal of UK REACH could happen as soon as the end of this month. Are we really going to leave it up to individual businesses to decide whether they include safety advice on their products?
It seems impossible that our government will allow the clock to run down on all of this. With thousands of REUL measures at risk, the multiverse of possible futures makes it impossible to advise businesses on how to prepare for its effects. Unprecedented deregulation or a return to ‘business as usual’? Both are viable options at this stage. As ever, the likelihood is a position will evolve somewhere in between.
After the chaos of the Truss administration, there have been loud calls for the Sunak Government to create an environment of “certainty and stability” to help settle everything and everybody down. This process is unlikely to be assisted by the sort of wholesale regulatory change now being risked by REUL.
We shall just have to wait and see how this will unfold…
By Tristan Meears-White, Specialist Consultant Solicitor