Is your business Brexit-proof?

By Anthony Wolny | 12th March 2019 | 11 min read

With less than three weeks’ to go until the final decision on Brexit, the persisting and rapidly growing uncertainty over the potential outcome is affecting businesses across the UK. A Personnel Today study, in association with Gartner, revealed that employee behaviour, engagement and productivity could well begin to suffer if we are shortly to enter into a prolonged, divisive Brexit process.

The study also noted that it could become much harder for businesses to retain their most highly-valued workers, as a direct correlation appears to evident between volatile business environments, and lower levels of business loyalty amongst workers. One theory as to why previously loyal employees’ are more likely to desert a business during periods of disruption is because they become more risk-averse – employers often mistakenly believe their workers will pull together and become more diligent, but sadly the reverse is true.

In such uncertain times, it is therefore no wonder that many companies have felt forced to accelerate, and even initiate their plans for a non-deal Brexit scenario. Whatever your individual concerns, preparing and implementing a robust plan of action that is applicable to your business operations whatever the outcome, could make the crucial difference between surviving or sinking in the post-Brexit economic environment.

We’ve included our top ten tips to guide you in preparing for business resilience, whatever the outcome:

Our 10 point checklist for business resilience post-Brexit:

Understand your deadlines

Currently, the UK is set to leave the European Union on the 29th March 2019, after which will follow an implementation period. As things stand, this currently means that most EU nationals can continue to live and work in the UK until at least 31st December 2020. However, anyone who wants to ensure that they can continue to reside in the UK after this week will need to ensure that have applied for ‘settled status.’

Check if any employees require ‘Settled Status’

The registration scheme for those applying will be open by 31st March 2019, and the deadline for making settled status applications is currently set for 30th June 2021. ‘Settled status’ will essentially enable EU nationals to work, live, and get access to various benefits in the UK for as long as they like. To be eligible, applicants must have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period.

Assess your current contracts structure

Analysing what percentage of your current employees’ are on a temporary, fixed or permanent contract now could really help you to gauge your staffing levels post-Brexit. You could think about offering your best employees permanent contracts if they do not already have them, increasing hours for those that are part-time and wish to, and even ending probation periods early for high-performing new starters that you are keen to retain.

Think about overall rewards (i.e. not just salary)

Research has shown that over half of the current UK workforce would consider taking a job with lower salary in exchange for a better overall benefits package. In a post-Brexit environment, it well be worth playing close attention to your wider business culture – what perks do you currently offer employees? Could they be improved? How fulfilling are they likely to find working at your business?

Work on employee engagement

As we have seen, external business disruptions can often signal a downward trend in employee engagement, so now would be an excellent time to think seriously about how to improve staff engagement within your business. Do you offer ‘giving back’ days for charitable causes? Do you offer health and wellness schemes? What about a mental health expert? Incentives such as these can really help to boost business productivity and engagement.

Think about business work-life balance

With such a focus placed on physical and mental health at work, the ‘work life balance’ should be a familiar concept to everyone, but if you don’t keep tabs on after-hours working, it can quickly spiral. Consider if your business could lead from the top – impress the importance of ‘work free’ time to key decision makers, and introduce a ban on replying to work emails or phone calls before and after certain hours of the day.

Keep channels of communication open

Fostering a business policy of clear, transparent communication will help to mitigate any major employee concerns as the Brexit saga rumbles on. To engage with employees, you must be engaging yourself, so make sure that staff at all levels know about your wider business stance on Brexit, understand it, and realise that they can talk in confidence to someone about any concerns or worries they may have. Consider setting up group or one-to-one sessions to allow all staff to have a voice, or think about publishing a company-wide FAQ sheet relating to Brexit.

Set up a management task-force

With such uncertainty abounding, now is the time to ensure that all procedures and processes are firmly in place and adhered to. This will allow to you to carefully monitor any Brexit-related disruption, and to quickly gauge the effects on your business. As an HR professional, the best way to achieve this is to engage productively with all areas of your business, including IT, finance and operations, to create a management ‘task force.’ By working together at a management level, you will quickly be able to address any concerns from an unsettled workforce.

Assess the competition

During pressurised times, competition for the best workers can become increased, so it would pay to keep a close eye on your major business competitors from all angles. What do they offer staff that you currently don’t? Have they expanded into areas that you haven’t? Do they place a business emphasis on areas that you haven’t thought of? Changing your strategy to reflect market trends may not be a bad idea, especially if it it relates to an area that your competitors have already spotted.

Address hiring needs now

Given the current state of uncertainty, you may well be tempted to put off any major recruitment plans until after Brexit. However, with some sources stating that industries such as hospitality, medicine and catering could already see a major worker shortfall by the end of 2019, it would be worth addressing your recruitment plans now. You could offer staff incentives for vacancy introductions, renegotiate with your existing recruitment partners, or even hold open days or events to help to raise awareness of your business to potential employees.