Brexit and Human Resources

Published on: 30/06/2016


Across the UK many businesses, large and small, are troubled by what the next few years might mean for the UK economy. This anxiety feeds into employee engagement and industrial relations.

Brexit is likely in the short term at least to lead to reduced investment, cut backs, closures, and corporate relocations away from the UK. All of which harms the jobs market and opportunities for the young. Since the referendum there is a reported rise in enquiries about emigration.

Thus the current alarm of many young people about what Brexit might mean for them.

Why will HR feel the pain? What will be asked of HR?

Cut backs may include HR professionals, especially now that the reduced risk of tribunal claims has removed much of the deterrence factor of employment law. Removal of legal remedies usually encourages bad behaviours, and having less HR resource may be seen as lower risk now.

Losing young people from the UK who opt to move overseas will hurt employers and families. The sadness of young people who wanted to remain in the EU is one of the biggest challenges to address. That cannot await a long process and they need to be swiftly seeing an alternative and promising UK future.

Recruitment will probably now slow down as the economy is reduced, hence steadily eroding the talent pool and growth UK businesses need to aim for and again stimulating an exodus of many of the most capable.

The bright and enthusiastic young EU workers the UK has been relying on will probably reduce. Regardless of migration controls, any sense of not being wanted in the UK and perceived risk of harassment may put people off choosing to come to the UK.

Employees, like families, may be split between those who wanted to remain and those who wanted to leave the EU.

This may hurt employee engagement and there may even be workplace harassment of migrant workers. Given the very disturbing reported harassment and abuse of people rightly or wrongly perceived to be migrants it would be surprising if there was not some of this experienced in workplaces.

Thus what happens in the UK generally affects the workplace and HR needs to be observant of the issues and dangers.

What is the best route for business in the current situation that HR and management generally should be asking for?

Firstly, we need early answers to the future arrangements with the EU to reduce uncertainties, reassure the young, stop a brain drain, and build bridges quickly in the UK and with Europe.

Time will be working against us, as uncertainty is in itself prejudicial, hence moving swiftly is better than prolonging the period of uncertainty, quite apart from the reputational damage to the UK for its evident lack of contingency planning for the referendum result.

Politicians must surely best unite to deal with a national crisis, producing perhaps a cross-party action group supported by national and international expertise to determine a plan that can soon be proposed to the EU.

Preparations on assumption of a European Economic Area relationship or hybrid, perhaps with modified migration based on right to work in the UK, and ability of course to make bilateral trade agreements, must be quickly commenced to build trade agreement negotiation capability and initiate talks with key overseas countries to show our intent. This should encourage people to see a global role for the UK, especially trading with the immense Commonwealth family. It would be worrying to not have trade talks with global markets under way and well advanced before any final stages of a Brexit being implemented.

The UK should find good ways to show goodwill to Europe, reinforcing friendships across all the EU.  Perhaps more direct help to the refugee crisis which seems to be neglected by the EU itself in not dealing quickly enough with the thousands of people displaced from Syria? Perhaps the UK can show an example of better engagement with other EU countries needing help dealing with this ongoing refugee crisis.

HR is well placed to address through its influential role in business management and workplaces the current worries about cultural, racial and inter-generational disunity, which may be the biggest adverse outcome of the referendum if not swiftly addressed.

Michael Sippitt

Forbury People



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