It may have been over a month since the country voted to leave the EU with ‘Brexit’, but there is still much uncertainty for UK businesses and non-British workers.
More than three million EU workers living in the UK are now faced with an uncertain future, although those that have lived here for more than five years will be able to apply for permanent UK residency, according to the Government.
What will Brexit mean for recruitment?
The UK has long benefited from a free movement of labour within the EU. It has helped to fill skills gaps in a variety of sectors, from medicine and research and those taking up academic, technical, manufacturing and manual skilled roles.
Until the UK officially leaves the EU, the policy on freedom of movement remains the same. However it is anticipated that the rules on immigration will become much stricter. Given the current shortfalls already experienced in certain sectors like health and social care and with certain industries like hospitality heavily reliant on EU workers, employers could see staff recruitment become much harder.
Employers may also find the available talent pool shrinking due to candidates being apprehensive to move to the UK due the uncertainty around their status and job security. There could also be a restriction on the type of employees allowed to work in the UK and this could affect companies wanting to recruit low skilled and low paid labour.
Managing the Brexit impact
Appoint a Brexit officer
Just as the Government have appointment a minister for Brexit, businesses should consider having someone in place that is responsible to manage Brexit and the impact on their organisation. This role could fall to the employer, senior manager or HR professional. Brexit is already hitting large SMEs and some companies in the finance, manufacturing, healthcare and insurance sectors, so don’t be complacent.
The UK employs a large number of EU Nationals and whilst we are still waiting for the government to trigger Article 50, the Government have been reassuring EU nationals already working and living in the UK that their position at the moment remains unchanged.
However EU workers across the country are concerned for their future in the UK. What will a Brexit mean for their job, their home and their prospects here? Employers need to be reassuring their staff about what they will be doing to secure their position.
Communicating with employees is crucial. If you haven’t already started then look to arrange regular briefings. Your employees who are EU nationals may appreciate being invited to one-to-one meetings with you or a senior member of staff, where they can discuss their concerns and raise any questions or issues they may have.
There might be many unknowns still, but it is important that employees hear from their managers in a reassuring, honest and calm way that nothing will change in the short term and as soon as they know more they will be telling all staff.
Protect staff from harassment and discrimination
Brexit may be the big talking point at the moment, but you need to make sure that differences of opinion do not turn into disrespect or bullying at work.
There has been a well-publicised rise in Brexit related hate crime. So employers must do everything possible to prevent their staff from being bullied or harassed in the workplace, because of their nationality.
It is perhaps a good time to remind all staff of the company’s policy on bullying and harassment and that there is a zero tolerance approach to all potentially discriminatory actions or remarks, even those made on social media.
Watch this space
Although there is already so much speculation about what the true impact of a Brexit will be on the UK, businesses and EU-workers, it is important that employers stay on top of the facts. Keeping up to date with the latest policy changes will be crucial to be able to plan effectively. So even though the country might be on a wait and see approach, some strategic forward planning will help to make sure your business and your employees are prepared as much as possible.