It’s been a time of uncertainty and upheaval, as Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is triggered today after months of planning. There is no doubt that the impact of Brexit will be felt in HR and recruitment, and indeed HR professionals will have a large part to play within their organisations in facilitating a smooth transition to new policies and practices.

The precise effects of Brexit on employment legislation, EU nationals and international trade are still unknown, but we can see certain trends and possibilities developing in Brexit’s wake.

Immigration and employment laws look likely to change; whether to a greater or lesser degree remains to be seen. However, the UK’s withdrawal will not automatically repeal laws stemming from EU legislation: many have been enshrined in UK law, and must be repealed or amended on a case by case basis.

Here are the key trends to watch out for as Brexit’s terms and effects take shape.


Immigration rules will change

Curbing EU migration is a hot topic in parliament, and it looks likely that the UK will no longer have a free movement agreement with the EU. It’s unlikely that those with permanent residency rights will be forced to leave the country, but it’s possible that cuts will be made to the number of skilled EU workers in employment in the UK in order to meet new targets. 

That means that it’s prudent to be aware of how many EU nationals you have in your organisation in order to plan for future effects. What roles do they take, and are these roles likely to qualify for visas in the future? Will you have trouble filling these roles without EU workers? What training exists to develop British workers to enable them to fill these roles?


Equality rights will remain

The majority of the UK’s anti-discrimination laws were set before joining the EU, so workers will most likely continue under the same protections as before. Potential smaller changes could include things like capping discrimination compensation.


Retention of EU Nationals looks set to be more difficult

Around a third of employers of EU nationals say their EU workers are considering leaving, rising to 40% in the public sector and half in healthcare. They expect this trend to continue as we move further into 2017.


Skilled and semiskilled workers might be harder to find

Almost a fifth of organisations say the struggle to find British applicants for skilled or semi-skilled roles. Nearly the same amount say that EU nationals are more motivated employees.


UK apprentices and older workers may benefit

With the anticipated loss of EU workers comes potential benefits for apprentices:  almost a fifth of businesses are considering hiring more. A similar amount say they plan to make efforts to retain older workers.


The 48-hour working week and opt-out system may be repealed

These statutes came from the EU Working Time Directive and it looks possible that they will be repealed or amended. Whatever happens, the changes won’t cancel out existing contractual rights and agreements.


Holiday pay could change

It’s possible that the laws may be amended to exclude things like overtime and commission from holiday pay calculations.


Costs are more likely to increase than reduce

A third or organisations believe their costs have increased due to the Brexit vote, including almost 40% of private sector firms and nearly half of manufacturing companies, compared to just 3% who believed the costs has reduced.


Organisations plan to move abroad

13% of businesses say they’re likely to relocate either some or all of their business abroad due to Brexit’s effects.


All of these points have been purposefully littered with mights, likelys, possibles and (Theresa) mays, and for good reason. If the past months have shown anything, it’s that until agreements are set out and the machinations of the real Brexit start to unfold, we can know almost nothing for sure.

The key to dealing with uncertainty in your organisation is to make sure that the information you do have is available to everyone, and to keep people in the loop as updates are made. This will go a long way towards quelling fear and rumours and among EU and UK nationals alike.


All statistics come from CIPD’s Labour Market Outlook surveys (Autumn 2016 and Winter 2016-17).

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