In the words of Lenin, "There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” It’s certainly felt as though we’ve had more than a decade’s worth of news in the ten days since the Brexit result was announced.
As a business owner these can feel unsettling times. The economic backdrop is now in transition and a future lies ahead where the people we employ and the countries we trade with may look very different in five or ten years’ time. Or, on the other hand, they may not look very different at all. The point is no one really knows what’s going to happen.
Clearly though business owners, particularly those who employ workers from the EU, are worried at the moment and feel in limbo. We’ve had many calls through to our advice line asking for guidance and a steer as to what to do and what the short and long term impact may be for business owners, their employees and their organisations. Around two million EU nationals work in the UK, accounting for around 7% of the total workforce. This is a significant number, particularly in industries such as agriculture, care, catering, hotels and hospitality, retail and other service sectors.
Our key message is not to panic. Nothing is going to happen overnight and for the moment there will be little impact on the UK’s employment and health & safety laws, probably for at least two years. But in view of the fact that changes will occur at some undetermined point in the future, it is essential that business owners be sure to get their house in order now and start some contingency planning and future proofing in the event of changes, whether they be major or minor.
Businesses need to analyse their current staffing requirements and future staffing levels and ensure all the relevant employment and contractual paperwork is in place. If this is in order, then EU nationals already working for your businesses have a clear paper trail which may potentially help them to regularise their employment status and hence their status within the UK in the event of future changes to legislation and free movement of labour.
Also it’s worth remembering if you do employ EU nationals, many of them may be very worried about their own futures. So it’s the role of the employer to provide whatever security and reassurance you can to help your employees by making sure all contractual obligations are in the best shape possible.
As a trusted advisor to more than 30,000 businesses across the UK, we’re here to help. We can’t give definitive answers – no one can at the moment – but we can guide and advise you as to what you should be thinking about doing right now to minimise any future potential shocks to your business and to protect your workforce. So if you have any concerns then please call our advice line on 0844 728 0139 for our practical advice and guidance at this time or indeed anytime.