What future for gender equality policy in the UK after Brexit?

Rachel Verdin and Jacqueline O'Reilly (2020), University of Sussex Journal Contribution

The evolution of gender equality policies in the UK prior to, and since, entering the Common Market in the 1970s illustrates the distinctive characteristics of the UK employment system. This can be understood as a movement between historically embedded voluntarism and periods of statutory compliance. European influence on British policies has been filtered through the interests and interaction of four key sets of actors: governments, the legal system, employers and unions. An historical analysis of gender equality policies suggests that the potential future consequences of Brexit are likely to be patterns of continuity, change and unintended consequences. Continuity indicates that existing regulations will persist, until they are challenged. Change will see a removal of appeal to EU-level adjudication. Some unintended consequences may emerge related to the impact of migration patterns and the behaviour of large-scale companies working in the UK which could have unexpected positive outcomes. The analysis in this paper suggests that this will remain a contested terrain.

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