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Brexit and the workplace – why employers should act now

Carlos Ruiz, managing director of Portas Global

A company’s workforce, no matter what the size or sector, is the beating heart of any business operation – and with that workforce comes a responsibility from employers to instil confidence and drive an organisation forward.

But, as we edge ever closer to Brexit D-day and the uncertainty for business about whether the UK will walk away from the 29th March with a deal or not, companies that employ EU nationals or have operations in the EU are still somewhat in the dark about what this could mean for their people in practice.

At the moment, we have a very concerned workforce across the UK with employers trying to remain optimistic and upbeat, despite their true feelings of uncertainty.

The lack of clarity around what the future may hold post-Brexit is leading to eroded confidence levels among consumers, businesses but also employees, not only in the UK but right across the EU.

What the final Brexit deal will include, specifically around the movement of people is still very much up in the air, with the threat of a skills crisis becoming a scarier probability rather than a possibility – certainly here in the UK.

While there are sectors that may not feel the brunt of a Brexit deal – such as fintech, biopharma, engineering and medical sciences – there are some which are reliant on EU workers.

The hospitality, health and social care, and the construction sectors are most likely to face a significant short fall of qualified and committed staff for permanent roles. Because of this, businesses and organisations operating in these sectors are at risk of being unable to deliver vital services, which could in-turn have a knock-on effect on the UK’s economy ability to compete on a global scale after Brexit.

But with apparent employment challenges on the horizon, what can employers do to mitigate the risks so that post 29th March their businesses are still able to make and deliver vital products and services?

EU nationals working in the UK and UK nationals working in other EU member states will be extremely sensitive to their right to work and future job security as a result of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. This presents an opportunity to demonstrate leadership by communicating openly, honestly and regularly to their employees to keep them engaged and to ease, as far as possible, concerns over the future.

It will force employers who are facing a Brexit-imposed talent shortage to develop a different and agile approach to recruitment and create positive employment pipelines within their industries. This is why working with a Global PEO can mitigate business continuity risk and loss of talent IP.

Apprenticeship schemes, which bring greater diversity and inclusiveness into the workplace, will become more commonplace and on-the-job training will go some way towards bridging the gap. I’d also expect to see organisations considering the impact of rewards and incentives to attract and retain world-class talent, in order to remain globally competitive.

But also recognising the value of people is underrated in many businesses. It is often said that a company’s most valuable asset is its people and for many sectors this is generally true. Business leaders should take steps to actively recognise and communicate the value that their people bring to the business. While not a financial incentive, gestures like this go a long way to engendering a feeling of pride and accomplishment in the workplace.

There is little doubt that UK immigration policy will change substantially post Brexit. With this in mind, employers will need to review where they recruit talent from or indeed how they train and upskill existing workforce. The growth of the “smart working” or remote workforce is being successfully utilised by SME as well as Tier 1 businesses across the UK to combat this challenge.

As the UK embarks on new trade negotiations with countries beyond the EU, UK businesses may also spot new labour markets that present the requisite skills to support their growth. This is something employers can be proactively reviewing now in anticipation of a ratified Brexit deal in March. 

Uncertainty prevails for most people when it comes to Brexit, but employers and employees are really feeling it as we edge closer to March.

That said, it is the employers who anticipate and recognise the concerns of their non-UK citizen employees, that take positive actions to accommodate these workers, and execute an effective communications plan that will be best placed to the react positively when the fall-out from Brexit is more fully understood.

Ultimately, businesses should be planning and acting now to mitigate any potential employee and recruitment risks. Without this forethought, employers could be left out in the cold when Brexit does finally bite.

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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