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Brexit: What next for HR professionals?

Posted by: Jayne Wogan 28 Jul 16 - 12:07PM  | Recruitment
With the dust slowly settling on the EU referendum vote, the implications for HR professionals are becoming clearer with many facing questions on employment law, the future of EU nationals working in the UK and how to deal with the inevitable workplace tensions that have followed the momentous vote for Brexit.

This month, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has offered some excellent insight in their Brexit special edition of People Management magazine, highlighting some key areas that HR professionals must tackle immediately.   We’ve picked a couple of the key points to share.

1.    Talk to your employees

Heightened economic uncertainty is very unsettling for staff, particularly when there is a real concern about their own job security.   Emily Burt writes that business leaders are stressing how important it is for HR to lead the way in offering employees opportunities to share their concerns and to provide support as the outcomes of the vote become clearer in an unbiased way.     

Jonathan Lee, Chairman of Jonathan Lee Recruitment agreed in his recent blog, “It is important to communicate with your staff, acknowledge their fears, give them an opportunity to contribute to coming up with ideas and involve them in any changes. Share good news and business wins, however small. The psychological contract between employer and employee hinges on trust and mutual obligation, if you look after them, they will do the same.”

2.    Calm the immediate tensions

There is such strength of feeling and a lot of emotion still around the Brexit decision and whilst most people have handled the outcome in a professional and dignified manner, tensions can rise in the workplace.  Marianne Calnan comments on how important it is for HR professionals to be vigilant in spotting and dealing with signs of discrimination or harassment.  The CIPD is supporting a new campaign, led by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which emphasises the role of managers in handling difficult situations and suggests that they be offered the opportunity for specific training when required.

 3.    Understand the legal implications

The EU’s influence on employment law was raised as both a reason for and against Brexit during the campaign.  Jo Faragher thinks it is hardly surprising therefore that people cannot agree on what will happen next.

The most pressing concern for many employers is for the future of their EU nationals.  In the longer term, most of the EU directives have been implemented in domestic legislation so there will not be an immediate void when Article 50 is invoked and the formal exit process is set in motion.  However, it is likely that some of the most frequently criticised EU directives such as changes to maternity and sickness leave, 48 hour cap on weekly working hours and TUPE could be open to reform.

 4.    Look to the long term

Georgi Gyton writes, “Economists are often a pessimistic lot. And when it comes to the prospects for the British economy in a post-Brexit landscape, they are at their gloomiest.”  However, the advice given is against responding to uncertainty with drastic action. Instead businesses should be building a plan that allows them to act quickly and decisively if it becomes necessary to do so.

One of the things that does seem certain however is that Brexit will have a significant effect on the availability of skills in the future.  Mark Bignell, Managing Consultant of Jonathan Lee Recruitment agrees; “We already have a significant skills gap in the UK engineering and manufacturing industries.  The likely impact of a drop in migration post-Brexit could prove significant for the UK’s ability to compete in these sectors globally in the long term.  It is vital for HR professionals to be thinking about their talent pipelines, investing in learning and development to up-skill existing employees and recruiting the best young talent to support the future of the business.”

People Management is the UK's number one human resources magazine. It is the official magazine of the CIPD, bringing you news, features, and all the latest thinking and advice in HR. People Management has a circulation of more than 132,000. Find more articles and insight at 
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