With everything that happened this year, it has been easy to forget that rumbling on in the background, is Brexit. But the impact of Brexit, much like the turmoil in businesses and organisations caused by the pandemic, will continue to put pressure on the shoulders of the HR community.
If you have an HR role in a UK business which trades and employs people from outside of the UK, there’s much you’ll need to be aware of and plan for, as key Brexit dates approach.
If you feel confused, un-informed and lacking in confidence around the HR implications of Brexit, you are not alone. Research carried out by Sterling before the pandemic found only 5% of HR professionals they surveyed were ‘very comfortable’ with their knowledge and confidence around Brexit, compared to 60% who said the exact opposite, that they were ‘uncomfortable’.
The question is, which one are you?
And the other question is, why’s it so important?
A tough year for HR
The chances are you can’t remember a busier time in the history of HR. Your learning curve has probably been more like a learning cliff, as you’ve spent this year getting to grips with entirely new laws, schemes and concepts like furlough, remote working and new approaches to measuring performance and productivity. You may have managed redundancies and outplacement, staff shortages and sickness, complex individual issues and even major organisational restructure, if your business has been badly affected by Covid. The pressure will have been immense, seemingly unending and emotionally wearing.
And just as there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel with a vaccine, in comes the next big challenge.
Negotiations continue, but key Brexit dates are looming
As the government campaign highlights, time is running out in terms of business preparation for Brexit. We are now approaching a full year since the Withdrawal Agreement became law and the transition period began and as of the 1st January 2021, the new immigration system will come into play.
Whilst there is continued uncertainty over many elements of Brexit, HR professionals can and must play a key role in preparing and protecting their organisations and workforces, whatever the outcome of negotiations.
People depend on their people professionals
As an HR professional, the leadership in your organisation and your workforce will be looking to you for expertise and support as we move towards key Brexit dates and transition.
Here’s why it’s so important you gain the knowledge and confidence on the HR and recruitment aspects of Brexit;
Naturally firms and organisations will be very concerned to meet key dates and comply with new legislation and regulation. To not do so could result in a heap of additional work and possible penalties, which everyone will want to avoid. The UK Border Agency can and do carry out spot checks, so being 100% on top of your compliance is crucially important.
This will include ensuring you have proof to work in the UK for every single member of staff, adherence to the new points-based system if you aren’t already and Sponsorship Licences where relevant.
Allaying concerns and anxieties
It is likely that ever since Brexit was announced, non-UK employees would have been concerned about their status and seek reassurance from you as their HR professional. And as tweaks and changes to the systems occur, both employees and recruiting managers will continue to look to you for accurate, up to date guidance and support.
It may be that line managers and employees also have worries about their employment rights under the law as we transition away from the EU. With mental health and well-being under great pressure this year, your reassurance will be greatly needed and valued.
Sustainable workforce plan
Brexit, and the past year’s events may have made effective and sustainable workforce planning virtually impossible. However, large organisations in particular will look to their HR teams to ensure there is a plan. This will be highly challenging, needing to balance economic uncertainty, with a workforce plan which is viable, compliant, clear, costed and designed to seamlessly deliver the work needed in line with business projections and objectives.
For HR professionals in some sectors such as hospitality and events, this will be incredibly difficult. These sectors have struggled with the hardest times through Covid, face continued uncertainty but also often rely on overseas seasonal staff.
If your business operates across Europe, or recruits considerable numbers of non-UK workers, you may need to consider increased recruitment costs and timescale implications, with an inevitable pressure on budgets and workloads at an already difficult time.
It’s likely it will fall to you to communicate these changes to recruiting managers across the organisation to manage their expectations around getting staff in place.
This is particularly important if parts of your business rely on fast recruitment from Europe to plug skills gaps at short notice. With your support, recruiting managers may need to get far more organised and strategic about the labour they need and the time it may take to secure it.
We know EEA nationals who arrive, or who are already in the country by 11pm on 31/12/20 have the right to apply for pre-settled status throughout a 6 months grace period which ends on the 30/06/21. How do businesses plan to on-board, advise, encourage and publicise the scheme to their existing EEA employees during this grace period? It is the individuals choice whether they choose to apply or not? And what happens beyond this date if staff have chosen not to apply?
If foreign travel is key to your business operations, you’ll also want to ensure you’re au fait with visa rules and any other changes due to Brexit. Once we are hopefully through the pandemic and normal operations can resume, people in your business may want to pick up on their business travel plans and will need to be aware of any new administration or time delays to arrangements.
Being the knowledge hub for your organisation
You are going to need to be a confident source in your organisation for Brexit related questions, especially if your phone is ringing off the hook and your email binging with questions from concerned employees and managers.
You may even need to run internal presentations or training sessions on a regular basis to ensure everyone in the organisation affected by new Brexit rules is engaged, compliant and able to adapt their own systems and processes accordingly.
Be prepared, be ready, be confident
We want to help our HR community future-proof their organisations by being on top of all things Brexit. You might be feeling overwhelmed, not just by the daunting nature of the unknown and imminent deadlines, but by the swathes of information and guidance coming out from the government, media and specialist organisations and associations.
As we navigate these unchartered waters over the coming months Kelta HR, in partnership with Coffin Mew, plans to hold some bite- size update webinar sessions to address your concerns as they emerge.
Due to the fluid, fast moving events follow the Kelta HR LinkedIn page for updates on these bitesize seminars.