It has become an all too familiar headline over the past few months. The uncertainty of what is going to happen post-Brexit is having a huge impact on companies with financial forecasts of drizzly times ahead.
Foster + Partners, the architectural firm, was the latest casualty in the headlines announcing that nearly 100 staff will be made redundant, mainly from the company's London headquarters. The cause - uncertainty around construction projects as a result of last year's vote for the UK to leave the European Union. In a similar vein, Nestle, the confectionary giant, has also announced plans to axe more than 140 jobs in its York factory stating that the proposals are being made to ensure that the business 'operates more efficiently and remains competitive in a rapidly changing external environment'. Again, the finger has been pointed at Brexit as the cause, due to a rise in prices of cocoa and sugar.
Without doubt, it appears that a sense of commercial anxiety and uncertainty is being felt by the majority of businesses across the UK. However, whilst no-one can predict the true impact of the UK's impending departure from the EU, all businesses can do is prepare, and help and reassure employees.
Communication is key. Where redundancies have to be made, making sure these are carried out fairly and following the correct procedures is paramount to avoiding further frustrations and costs for both employees and employers. With redundancies also being made on such a large scale, employers' obligations to collectively consult need to be adhered to. Businesses should make sure that redundancy policies are up to date in preparation for any restructuring proposals which may arise.
Another area businesses need to be alive to and offer support on is in relation to workers who are non-British nationals. As the immigration status of these workers is still to be decided, forming a key part of the Brexit negotiations, again communication to address employee concerns is key. For those already working in the UK it may be the case that they will be eligible to obtain permanent residency and/or dual citizenship. Employers may consider helping provide these employees with support and guidance through the process. In relation to non-EEA citizens coming to work in the UK, only time will tell whether the same immigration system that already applies for non-EEA citizens is introduced. Currently the UK has a Points Based System in place which includes various routes of entry into the UK including Tier 2 work visas where employers 'sponsor' an individual to work in the UK. There are substantial costs involved in sponsoring an individual through this system which businesses will need to consider. As an initial step, businesses should audit their workforce as soon as possible to identify employees who may be impacted post-Brexit.
While change is inevitable post-Brexit, for now, all businesses can do is be aware and prepare as best they can. It will not be a case of these changes happening overnight - and in some respects businesses will just have to react as and when the time comes.