What would Brexit mean for HR?


With the referendum looming what would an OUT vote mean for your business?

Date: Wednesday 15th June 2016

With the EU referendum drawing closer, there has been much debate from both the remain and leave campaigns for and against Britain to exit the European Union.  While a large number of people remaining undecided it has been hard to truly predict what would happen if Britain decided to leave, but both campaigns have strong arguments for and against.

According to a recent report in The Guardian, small businesses are evenly split about whether Britain should leave the EU.  Among them there is a great desire for economic stability and some believe that by voting to leave we could bring about another recession.  At the same time a large number believe that although the waters could be muddied at first, trading would become easier and stronger relationships would be formed between international nations.

As for HR, what would Brexit mean for organisations in Britain?  How could it potentially impact them for the better or for the worse?  We take a look at what some of the implications may be.

  1. Recruitment – with the impending referendum and level of uncertainty as to which way the vote will go, businesses are being cautious and putting a temporary freeze on hiring new talent particularly permanent employees in to the business.  However, there has been an increase in short term and interim contracts to cover the next few months until the votes are cast and a more definitive plan has been put in place if Brexit were to occur.  We could assume that if Britain decided to remain that there would be an uplift in permanent hires towards the latter part of the year.
  2. EU nationals – If Brexit did occur, EU nationals would have vast amounts of paperwork to deal with in order to work in the UK, causing headaches for businesses and the individual.  What we may see is a huge amount of talent leaving the UK to go to other EU countries where it would be easier to work as the level of paperwork would not exist.  However the UK could be faced with huge skills gaps and shortages within businesses.
  3. Lack of flexibility – Brexit could mean that the UK has less flexibility in order to access EU nationals’ skills precisely for the reasons above.  However, it has been suggested that a points system could be introduced to enable only migrants with in-demand skills to gain access to work in the UK, much like in Australia and Canada so that skills gaps are plugged.
  4. Employment law – much of the employment law and workers’ rights we have in the UK today were sanctioned by the European Union so an exit could bring some of these laws into question and review.  This could include working time, TUPE, entitlements around maternity, discrimination protection and holiday entitlements as well as agency worker rights.  Any changes to legislation could have heavy repercussions on both employees and employers if less favourable changes were passed.
  5. Confusion – Leaving the EU could cause a lot of confusion for both employees and employers as well as being quite costly and time consuming if laws were to be reviewed and changed.  New legislation may come in to play and firms would need to ensure that their policies were in line with any amends to avoid being caught out.

What is clear from recent media and polls, is that there is no clear cut decision from the British public as yet, with many opinions divided.  The fear of the unknown will certainly make some people question whether it is a good idea or not to leave, while others will embrace it and see this as a chance for economic freedom.  Whichever side you fall, there is no way of knowing exactly how it would be if Britain was to leave.  In any case it could take up to two years for Britain to fully separate from the EU, ensuring a period time for everyone to grasp the reality of what that means.  All anyone can do is to wait and see and to be prepared for whichever way the decision goes when the time comes.

If you’re looking for part-time HR consultants to help you during this time of uncertainty then Bradfield has a team of experts who run the day to day HR administrative tasks as well as giving guidance at a more strategic level.  Get in touch with us to find out more at enquiries@bradfield.co.uk or call us o 0207 977 9200.

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