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The UK’s departure from historic trade partner, the European Union (EU), will affect not only business arrangements in the UK, but will likely reshape the responsibility of an employer of EU nationals. Yet, as the press has demonstrated, there appears no exact outcome as uncertainty looms over the terms of a European exit for Britain. Rather, businesses should prepare to be flexible and hatch strategy to anticipate a range of likely outcomes and the forthcoming changes to the workforce.

Any roadmap to a post-Brexit business climate would be trivialised by a lack of clarity over the outcomes of a new UK-EU relationship. With the deadline looming, the UK will go through a transitional period to ready its workforce for upcoming change. The precise impact of Brexit on immigration and hiring European nationals remains a large, troubling uncertainty that has got people talking.

How prepared, exactly, is your business?

How long is the transition period for Brexit?

The story of the UK leaving the European Union, though still unwritten, is a trial full of drama and theatre. Even though the UK has officially voted itself out of the EU, by public forum, England is temporarily bound by EU rules. The 11-month offboarding period, known as the transition phase, allows the UK to maintain its trade with EU and many of the rules remain the same.

The deadline for the transition period will end on the 31December 2020.

Thereafter, the UK will exit from the EU’s trading arrangements, including the single market and customs union. The outcomes of a trade deal, among other arrangements affecting the labour market, are yet to be determined. The UK-EU relationship is undefined for now, leaving businesses to interpret the future of the migrant workforce and how they operate overseas.

Yet, for a business’ HR operation, where it might attract EU nationals, you will need to ensure compliance throughout this transition and immediately thereafter. Whilst in transition, businesses will have time to prepare for both risks and opportunities in a post-Brexit Britain, especially when recruiting from the labour market.

1)     Start Planning for a No Brexit Deal

Perhaps the only certainty is the urgency to plan for a post-Brexit Britain. This is no mean feat, especially without a clear outcome to plan for.

It would, however, be wise to plan for a no-deal Brexit. This would mean that the UK would exit from its previous arrangements with the EU, including the Court of Justice and Europol. In many spaces, this kind of abrupt departure is referred to as a “divorce”.

There are potential changes coming that plan to setup a new “immigration regime”, which will reshape how recruitment works in the UK and beyond. For global operations, this can be navigated through careful attention to new legislation. For example, businesses who are planning to hire EU workers who are not in the UK before the end of the transition period will have to apply to the Home Office to become a visa sponsor for these workers.    

The UK government has established some provisional rules regarding the immediate immigration process post-Brexit, including a smart initiative called the “global talent scheme”. This will enable “unlimited” visas to be distributed to a highly skilled workforce, which is mostly aimed at those in the sciences. This is the first announcement of a booster programme but may not be the last.

2)     Brexit impact on workforce: what it all means?  

In the countdown to a Brexit outcome, even in the result of a no-deal, your business will need to review your recruitment and hiring practices. This means ensuring that your business has access to the best talent in a post-Brexit labour market. Or, if you benefit from a migrant workforce already, it’s worth considering staff retention, especially for any EU, EEA or Swiss citizens.

When reviewing the impact of Brexit on the workforce in 2021, consider the following:

3)     Workforce planning

Before your HR operation considers hiring and recruitment of labour markets in a post-Brexit world, it should review its existing talent. Check your staff’s nationality status and if you employ any EU nationals, then it will be mandatory to apply for settled status to remain in the UK. This means planning for any deadlines or cut-offs and ensuring that your migrant workforce can continue its role within your operation without disruption or delay.

One of the greater concerns for businesses planning for post-Brexit should be immigration compliance. It will likely be an outcome that the labour markets in the EU tighten with new regulation impacting how global companies recruit from foreign markets.

For those managing a dynamic workforce, prepare your workforce with these priority actions:

Before your HR operation considers hiring and recruitment of labour markets in a post-Brexit world, it should review its existing talent. Check your staff’s nationality status and if you employ any EU nationals, then it will be mandatory to apply for settled status to remain in the UK.  Equally too, consider your UK employees that are currently working in EU countries, since new regulations apply to them too. This means planning for any deadlines or cut-offs and ensuring that your migrant workforce can continue its role within your operation without disruption or delay.

4)     Business Travel for the Internationally Mobile

Whilst online platforms have now taken off in a greater way than ever before to enable video meetings, the bottom line is that this technology doesn’t wholly replace the need for cross-border business travel.  When thinking of your mobile workforce and where a visa may not have been a previous requirement to move from one jurisdiction to another, new immigration regulations will now need to be taken into account and failure to comply will undoubtedly set any business plans back.

This also means that travel insurance becomes a bigger consideration, since the access to healthcare under the EU directive will not be as readily available.  As a valuable asset, you need to ensure that your internationally mobile workforce have the protection that they need when travelling outside of the jurisdiction in which they are working.

And since we’re discussing the topic of healthcare, you should also be reviewing the medical insurance arrangements that you have in place for your European teams; are you certain that the current medical insurance plans are still appropriate?  Now is the time to review those plans to ensure that they meet the needs of your team; the potential for premium costs to increase post-Brexit is as yet unknown, and those that plan ahead allow themselves the time to properly consider coverage more fully and make more informed decisions to change.

Working with IRIS HR Consulting

In the new, uncertain outcome of a post-Brexit world, global businesses will need to prepare for the various changes afoot. This is not always easy to navigate without the expert consultation of global HR specialists like IRIS. When the deadline arrives, your operation will need to be ready. Even if that means changing the way you recruit and hire.