The Conservative campaign was all about “getting Brexit done”. With a Conservative majority, Boris Johnson now has a clear mandate to get the deal agreed by Parliament. However this is only the first step. It will not on its own mean “getting Brexit done”. It merely paves the way for the negotiations around the future relationship between the EU and the UK. It also does not take the risk of no deal out of the equation.
With this in mind, there are six things you can be doing now to prepare for the short-term impacts of Brexit and future-proof the workforce for the years ahead.
1. Communicate and provide tailored support
Reassure EU citizens that the UK government has guaranteed their rights irrespective of a deal. Use employer toolkits and cascade GOV.UK advice. The Home Office has published communications materials on the EU Settlement Scheme and European Temporary Leave to Remain (if there’s a no-deal Brexit) for employers to use. We have also created an interactive video which guides employees through what Brexit means for them based upon their specific circumstances.
Employees may have complex individual circumstances. Provide practical support, for example townhalls, digital briefings or one-to-one advice sessions. Tailor communications channels for employees who may be hard to reach, for example night workers who may need to be engaged with differently.
2. Get your business ready for the future of immigration
Understand your current immigration compliance governance models and policies.
Identify enhancements needed to manage:
increased population of employees subject to immigration laws (EU nationals)
changes to current compliance requirements to reflect the new immigration system
Upskill key business stakeholders so they understand potential costs and can navigate the complexities of the new immigration system, including salary requirements and new restrictions.
Understand the impact of no-deal on the current and future EU population and British nationals working in the EU and implement appropriate contingency plans.
3. Consider your social security arrangements
Individuals should continue to get A1 certificates during the transition period, which can be valid after 31/12/2020 provided the underlying assignment has no material change.
In a no-deal scenario, the approach that each EU country will take is less clear. In some countries A1s could immediately become invalid from 31/10/2019 meaning instant exposure to host social security for UK outbounds, complex payroll compliance requirements and an impact on future benefits. Other countries have suggested informally that existing UK A1s may be honoured until 31/12/20 (or beyond).
The UK position is unclear in relation to EU nationals working in the UK under existing social security coverage. However the original intention of the UK Government was to ensure individuals who have social security coverage would not be negatively impacted. In the absence of detailed guidance being available:
Identify your current population of EU cross-border workers, including regular business travellers, as well as your compliance requirements
Prepare to brief your business stakeholders
Communicate to your mobile employees
4. Unlock the power of your workforce data
Collect, clean and consolidate relevant data (e.g. on employee nationality) and people programmes.
Workforce data points including nationality, gender, citizenship, location, business unit and skills, insights can also help inform many decisions and actions, including:
identifying critical skills gaps and retraining needs,
highlighting the impact of possible workforce disruption on diversity
operational impact of workforce changes.
5. Prioritise your people
In the short term – focus on the skills you’ll need in each location in the run up to and on day one after 31 January 2020 and how you’ll get them there;
In the long term – focus on talent - retention of the best talent and recruitment and development of new talent, including working with local communities to close skills gaps in key areas. Brexit implications should be considered in the wider context of low unemployment, skills gaps, digitalisation and the gig economy, to consider the optimum workforce of the future
To the extent that the business decides to restructure or relocate as a response to Brexit, consider all the people implications, allowing time for the necessary consultation.
Assessments of a business should consider how the target and its people would be impacted in each case, and the business readiness for Brexit.
This consideration should include the potential impact of currency fluctuation and financial market movements on the target’s pension plans/share incentives, both in the run up to 31 January 2020 and beyond, depending on progress on a potential trade deal.
But also think wider - to consider not just the risks, but also the potential Value Creation upsides post-deal and how implications of Brexit interact with opportunities from, for example, digital and workforce transformation.
If post-deal plans for the business include relocation of some or more business aspects due to Brexit, consider the impact of this on the workforce.
Deals flow, after a short initial hiatus following the Brexit referendum, has remained stubbornly robust given the uncertainty, perhaps helped by falls in the pound - although slowed slightly pre election. It is possible that the emphatic election result now helps businesses press ahead with plans.