Legal

Managing through Brexit: How U.K. businesses can cope

By Jana Reserva

Dec. 15, 2020

The U.K. officially left the European Union on Jan. 31, 2020, and the transition period is coming to a close as this year ends. But with COVID-19, planning for changes that come along with Brexit has become more challenging for businesses. 

With economic impact, shifting priorities, and the fight to keep businesses afloat, companies need to have a strategy to weather the potential implications of Brexit and juggle the effects of the pandemic at the same time.

How businesses should prepare

Brexit introduced a lot of potential changes with how U.K. businesses can trade with E.U. companies. As negotiations continue, organizations need to be prepared and consider how to maintain supply chain continuity, efficient workforce management and cost-effective operations. 

Businesses also need to prepare for changes if there would still be no deal by the end of 2020. This means that prices are likely to go up as the U.K. and E.U. would start trading under the rules of the World Trade Organization. Goods coming from the U.K. to the E.U. would be susceptible to  tariffs and vice versa. Businesses need to figure out how this would affect the cost of their raw materials, especially if they import them. 

Border inspections are also a crucial area to plan for to ensure business continuity. In case of a no-deal, more border checks are possible and can cause delays. Companies might think of sourcing elsewhere, but that can also entail added logistical costs. Immigration policies are a major point of consideration for businesses and their employees. If you’re a U.K. business planning to employ E.U. citizens after the transition period, you need to become an approved employer sponsor to hire employees from the E.U. Meanwhile, existing employees who are E.U., EAA, or Swiss citizens should apply for the E.U. Settlement Scheme.  With these changes happening, companies need to have a strategy in place in terms of recruitment and supporting their employees who will be affected by the change. 

How to manage changes

With negotiations still ongoing, the first thing companies need to do is to stay abreast with the rules and developments to better prepare and optimize their strategy. Constant review is essential because what may be applicable now may not be suitable down the road. Take, for instance, the COVID-19 pandemic. Some Brexit plans made before the pandemic may no longer be relevant given current restrictions. 

Conducting a workforce audit is a must for employers. Determine the skills and specialties your business requires. Looking at historical data is helpful. Platforms like Workforce.com can pull in your historical data from different data points like your POS system and enable you to forecast staffing needs and crucial areas to cover. 

Also read: Labor analytics and reporting starts with access to the right data

If you haven’t already, you also need to identify who among your staff would likely be affected by new immigration laws for E.U., EAA, and Swiss citizens. Offer support in terms of providing guidance about applications and helping them go about the process. Also, consider their partners and families as you help them navigate these changes.

The key to workforce planning with Brexit in mind goes beyond just labor costs. It’s about preparing for the worst-case scenario where E.U. employees decide to leave the U.K. Take a look at your talent pool and make sure that contingency plans are in place to keep all business needs covered. 

Operational costs are another potential issue when the transition period is over. Now more than ever, companies need to be agile in optimizing their operations to stay cost-efficient. It’s advisable to have systems in place that will enable them to do so. 

With potential changes to account for, it’s helpful for companies to automate what they can in their operations to focus more on strategizing for Brexit changes. Platforms like Workforce.com can help with this. Workforce.com is a powerful workforce management tool — from employee scheduling, live wage tracking, labor law compliance and reporting and analytics. Through the platform, you can extract different information that will give you better insights into managing your team before and after the transition period. 

As some areas remain uncertain in terms of new rules following Brexit, it’s critical to continually assess plans, keep teams updated on any current developments that might affect them and find solutions that will help with the transition. 

Jana Reserva is a content manager for Workforce.com.

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