The implications of the Brexit vote are sinking in, and HR are faced with a new set of challenges, not least how to address the very real concerns of EU (or more accurately, EEA) nationals working in the UK, and UK nationals working in the EEA.

A clear message that came out of a useful presentation led by the folks at Xpert HR was that: while much is uncertain, there are practical steps that HR can take right now to support both their employees and the business.

Get to know the makeup of your workforce

The focus on Brexit has, to a degree, overshadowed recent changes to immigration legislation, which places a much stronger onus (backed by bigger financial penalties) on employers to prove that they have properly checked that employees have a right to work in the UK. Since the obligation applies to all employees, you should already have the information on file that lets you see which employees may be affected should legislation on the right to work in the UK (or elsewhere) change.

With Cezanne HR you can:

  • Upload copies of proof of right to work documents (e.g. copy of a passport) to individual employee records.
  •  Set notifications to send reminders when documents expire or need to be renewed or re-validated.
  • Run reports to see where you are missing appropriate documents, so it’s easy to chase up and fill the gap.
  • Track change of address to support the reporting required by the Home Office for current visas.

Communicate on a regular basis

With some 2 million EU nationals working in the UK (and around 1 million UK nationals living in the EU), it’s clear that the uncertainty over Brexit touches a large number of people.

Until agreements are in place, nothing is certain, so nothing can be promised. However, keeping up an open conversation and providing regular updates, can help staff better deal with uncertainty.

With Cezanne HR, you can easily:

  • Use the HR portal to post information on a regular basis, and provide links to third party sites, such as the Home Office, where employees can go to find the latest information
  • Create an FAQ section, with staff able to post their own questions, so that the conversation is open and available to all.

Track employee churn

A concern for many businesses in the UK, is that EEA nationals in the UK may decide that they are better off elsewhere in Europe, perhaps because the UK doesn’t feel as welcoming as it once did, or because they don’t feel they have the opportunity to stay on once new legislation is in place, and leave. Leaving vacancies to fill, problems recruiting from overseas, and a potentially damaging skills gap.

There are two things you can do right now. Start to monitor staff churn and inbound applications to see if the Brexit factor is affecting you, and put in place plans to help you train up staff internally.

With Cezanne HR you can:

  • Report on leavers, so you can pick up on any particular patterns – for example, are you really seeing EEA staff leave unexpectedly?
  • Track applications using the recruitment module, so you can see whether the number of appropriate inbound CVs from EEA nationals has dropped, or fewer job offers are being accepted
  • Map the skills of your workforce, so it’s easier to see where the gaps might be, and put in place appropriate plans
  • Develop career and development plans for key sets of staff, so you can take a systematic approach to developing staff with the appropriate skills and experience.
  • Review an employee’s residential status before suggesting overseas assignments, so that you are aware of any potential implications for their right to remain in the UK.

Focus on the conversation

If EEA nationals working in the UK are nervous about their right to remain, another useful recommendation from Xpert HR was to think about whether you should encourage them to apply for residency (assuming they meet the Home Office criteria) and perhaps support them during the process. In fact, given the degree of uncertainty, arranging for employees to have one to one conversations with managers or HR to talk through their concerns and future career opportunities could be a good way to uncover how your wider workforce is thinking today – and provide a benchmark for future reviews.

With Cezanne HR you can:

  • Set up a performance review form that specifically addresses issues associated with Brexit, so you can build a comprehensive picture of how employees are feeling
  • Use the data collected to put in place appropriate activities, whether that’s arranging for advice on applying for residency, or talking staff through the pros and cons of taking overseas appointments
  • Easily repeat the performance process as often as you need, so you can build up a picture of changing sentiment.
Sue Lingard author image

Sue Lingard

Sue studied Personnel Management at the London School of Economics before taking on management roles in the travel, recruitment and finally HR software industry. She's particularly interested in how technologies enable HR teams - and the people they support - to work better together.