HR Administration

How Can HR Help Businesses Survive Brexit?

By Julie Provino

Sep. 16, 2019

Businesses throughout the country are turning to their HR teams for guidance on what Brexit might bring. With less than six weeks to go, it’s time for HR to step up to the task and proactively guide businesses through the next major phase.

We’ve spent so long observing and waiting that we’re currently complacent about the impact Brexit is sure to have on our organisations. Just remember that the inevitable will happen. Now is no longer the time to simply wait and see.

As an international HR consultant, my Brexit to-do list includes three key areas that I’d like to share with you:

1. Plan

While this is something everyone has been saying for the last four and a half years, today it’s more relevant than ever before: All organisations need a plan. You need to forecast what might happen to your business should there be a deal, a no-deal, a further delay or any other outcome. But Brexit has created a lot of uncertainty. There’s very little we can proactively do to prepare for it.

First and foremost, HR professionals must implement a people strategy based on their current and forecasted pool of talent. Whichever scenario comes to fruition, one thing that’s certain is staff will be impacted by Brexit.

Through forums and discussion boards, it’s clear that there’s currently a great deal of unrest among EU citizens living in the UK. With lots of rumours doing the rounds, many people are wondering whether their residency will be extended beyond October 31st. What we can say for sure is that EU citizens may apply for the EU Settlement scheme, and immigration regulations will be defined and implemented by 2021. However, do you as an employer or HR professional know exactly who will be impacted in your business? Do you know if these employees wish to remain in or leave the UK? And, most importantly, are these employees being kept up to date with what steps they need to take?

Thinking more strategically, it’s important to note that since 2016 the UK has witnessed a significant decline in EU immigration. As a result, it has become a lot more difficult to recruit the right workers with the right skills. In fact, 44 percent of employers claim that it’s become more difficult to hire staff, while 34 percent are struggling to retain specific skillsets. This challenge is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

What’s more, competition is becoming fiercer. For instance, compensation packages have already started to increase. The big question is: How critical are certain skillsets to your organisation, and what is your business plan in terms of retaining the people who have these skills?

2. Communicate

Across all organisations, communication is a key challenge within any change programme. Brexit has become the elephant in the room. It’s the word on everyone’s lips – from furtive jokes at the coffee machine to heated discussions in the boardroom. It means different things to different people. That’s why we need to bury the hatchet regarding how Brexit affects us as individuals. It’s time to communicate across the whole organisation to devise a plan to tackle the beast at a company level.

Moreover, it’s our duty to our employees and their families to engage in discussions on the private impact Brexit will have. Provide guidance notes and clarify policies on the challenges that the European population will face post-Brexit. For instance, how will travel, visas and so on be managed?

3. Create a strategy that’s work-able

With some key Brexit information currently available, smart moves are already being taken by many organisations, especially when it comes to ensuring business resilience over the next few years. However, let’s face facts. It’s taken 4 years to get this far. Businesses will need at least the same amount of time to adapt and re-norm.

Furthermore, HR needs to be savvy. Organisations must review their recruitment and benefits strategies if they want to remain compelling and keep current and future employees loyal and on-side. It’s time to deliver people-oriented communication, while revising policies such as GDPR, data protection and so forth.

Without doubt, the HR agenda will be mega-busy during Brexit. It will demand a complete overhaul of everything we currently do – from employing international staff through to managing things like staff travelling internationally.

Now’s the time to focus and bring pragmatism to the Brexit agenda.

Julie Provino is an international HR leader, founder of VeryHR and the author of "How to Get What You Want in 7 Weeks." To find out more go to:

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