Britain’s decision to leave the EU was made just over a year ago and we wanted to see the impact this has had on the UK workforce. While the ramifications are still largely yet to be felt in workplaces across Britain, we discovered Brexit has had a devastating impact on job security. In addition to this, many UK employees have found it to be a divisive issue at work.
In our survey of 1,257 workers, we found levels of job insecurity have more than doubled since the vote last June: the percentage of those feeling insecure in their jobs has risen from 5% to 13%. Brexit has also had a negative affect on those feeling secure; pre-referendum, 70% of employees felt secure in their job, now just over half (58%) feel secure, marking a 17% dip.
We found the majority of workers (70%) believe it is an employer’s duty to calm Brexit-related fears.
When we asked how best employers should calm Brexit-based distress, 76% said informing employees of any impending updates was the key solution. Flexible working provisions (25%) and one-to-one managerial support (20%) were also thought to be helpful in easing worries. Nearly one in ten respondents even considered counselling to be a suitable offering in way of support.
Of the workplaces experiencing Brexit-related fears, only a third of employers (31%) have offered support. We spoke to Sarah Sutton, Head of People Development at Genie Ventures, to get her insight on employer best practices regarding the matter.
Brexit in the workplace Q&A
We asked Sarah for her advice and thoughts on the findings.
Twice as many workers feel insecure after Brexit, why do you think this may be the case?
Brexit has left a lot of people feeling uncertain about the future of the UK and what it will be like as a place to work in the coming years. Therefore it makes sense that it’s not only EU nationals that are feeling insecure in their jobs, but UK citizens too.
What would you recommend employers do to tackle feelings of job insecurity as a result of Brexit? How should they calm employee fears?
Employers should aim to tell staff about any new regulations coming into place. They should also offer reassurance, either in an address to all staff or on a one-to-one basis. While noone can be sure what the exact outcomes will be, employers can tell their employees that nothing will change in the short term and steps will be taken to minimise any negative implications. I’d recommend employers inform EU nationals how to apply for both permanent residence status and UK residency if they are eligible.
With Brexit being a potentially divisive issue, it may also be worth reminding staff of your policies regarding discrimination and bullying in the workplace ensuring all workers are treated with dignity and respect at all times.
Are there any precautions employers should take, should leaving the UK impact an employee's right to work in the UK?
Currently it’s a legal requirement for employers to check all staff members’ documents regarding their right to work in the UK. This takes place at the beginning of employment but after Brexit, it would be advisable to conduct checks on a continual basis for EU nationals.
It can be worth auditing your workforce: checking immigration statuses of employees, how long they have worked in the UK, and when they will be able to apply for permanent residence.
If an employee is worried about the effect Brexit will have on their working life, what are the best resources to consult (outside of their HR team)?
The CIPD has a Brexit hub featuring blogs and news pieces on Brexit and how it will impact employment, so it’s worth having a look on there. The University of Cambridge also has a pretty good Brexit web page. That said, if Brexit is a daily concern and affecting how you feel at work, it is worth speaking to a member of HR.