Brexit: HR, your businesses need you!
Major economic changes always create uncertainty, stress and anxiety. It has been nearly three weeks since the UK voted to leave the EU and if businesses haven’t done so already, they need to think about the potential implications of Brexit and how it will affect them and their staff.
Communication is key
Business leaders will be looking to their HR colleagues to help them assess the various options available and the associated employee engagement consequences of any action that might need to be taken.
HR teams need to work with the Board to devise a clear strategy and communications plan. Employee communications are vitally important in these times of uncertainty to build trust between the business and its staff. It is imperative that managers at all levels are equipped with the right information and skills to deliver the right messages.
Whilst many businesses will not have a clear idea of the consequences of an exit, there will inevitably be employment and HR issues and concerns that need to be addressed with staff at this early stage. These could include:
• EU nationals may be worried about whether they can stay in the UK. All workers, irrespective of nationality, may worry about business closures and redundancies. They should feel informed about how business is responding to Brexit and any potential changes to their contract of employment.
• There could be a risk of conflict in the work place due to the extremely close result. Businesses need to take steps to remove conflict at work by bringing all staff back on track to focus on a collective culture. UK workers may need support and guidance in understanding how to talk about Brexit with their EU colleagues.
• There have been higher levels of abuse of immigrants since the vote. Staff need to be reminded of equal opportunities policies; policies relating to workplace bullying and harassment, and the grievance and disciplinary procedures that should be used if any incidents occur within the workplace.
• If you have already decided to relocate to outside the UK, do not delay embarking upon a meaningful consultation exercise with the affected staff. Staff should feel that they have been given an appropriate opportunity to put forward their views regarding the contemplated changes before any decisions are ultimately made.
So, what about the law?
A significant part of UK employment law derives from the EU. It is too early to say exactly how, if at all, EU derived employment law will change. It will very much depend upon the outcome of the UK’s exit negotiations. Any trade agreements that would allow the UK continued access to the single market, or joining the European Economic Area, are likely to require the UK to accept the majority of EU employment laws and regulations. If this were to happen, we suspect that very little would change.
The biggest immediate challenge regarding the law is likely to be reassuring staff that any significant changes to their employment rights, and rights to work in the UK, are highly unlikely to happen in the short to medium term.
For more information on the issues raised above or any other employment related matter, please contact a member of the Employment and Business Immigration Team. We are here to help you manage these difficult and uncertain times.