Business

Preparations must be made as Brexit D-Day draws near

The speed at which we seem to have gone from the Brexit Referendum, to seeing March 29 on the horizon is reminiscent of a Billy Connolly joke on how the older you get the quicker the year seems to pass you by
Barry Shannon

BILLY Connolly used to do a piece in one of his routines about how the older you get the quicker the year seems to pass you by.

You were no sooner holding hands and belting out Auld Land Syne than you'd had happy birthday sung to you and were getting ready to be wished a merry Christmas. Everything rushes by in a blur.

Crazy as it may seem, the speed at which we seem to have gone from the Brexit Referendum, to seeing March 29 on the horizon, makes Billy's timeline seem positively glacial.

Now since (and even before) June 2016 we've had constant flurries of hot air, cold stares, warm overtures and cool reactions, yet very little concrete has been made available regarding what will happen post March.

This places employers and employees alike into an incredibly difficult situation. It's one thing being told if the worst is going to happen: at least you can put a concrete plan into effect to deal with it. It's quite another having to guess what will happen and react accordingly.

Despite the lack of information however, there are some things that employers can be thinking about right now, some pointed questions they could (and should) be asking themselves.

First up: have you done any auditing of how many of your employees might be affected? In particular have you considered how many, for example, will be required to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and how many of them will be eligible for settled or pre-settled status? Have you considered how many of your potentially affected staff even know about this requirement?

Are you preparing a communications strategy to cover Brexit, so that there are no rumours milling about (nature abhors a vacuum, so in the absence of good information, something else tends to fil in the space)?

Have you considered if either the HR team, managers or other relevant staff within your business are educated on the process and requirements and have answers to potential FAQs?

Have you thought about whether or not you will support the application payment fees? If so, will that be for employees only or for employees and their families?

Consider too if your leaders are displaying the right behaviours and promoting a positive message around diversity and inclusion within the workplace. In doing so also remember to keep an eye (and ear) out for the opposite and be quick to deal with any negative or downright discriminatory actions that may occur.

There have been a lot of emotions stirred up on the issue of Brexit and while debate in the workplace can be healthy, it should not overstep the mark where acceptable differences of opinion become bullying behaviour.

Have you also given any thought about whether there is likely to be a skill shortage in any of your work areas? Have you done any modelling for turnover and recruitment? Have you provided your business leaders with the right analytics? Have you tested their integrity and validity? From what they tell you: do you believe you will need to need to retrain or multi-skill any of your existing workforce to compensate?

And finally have you considered the effect that Brexit might have on employee engagement? Maybe you are lucky and have a very highly skilled work force who will remain with you, or maybe you need to consider the impact that losing a significant part of your labour force will have on the rest. What will be the morale and long-term commitment from those who remain with you?

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, there are still plenty of known unknowns and indeed unknown unknowns around Brexit, so let's look at what we actually can do and prepare accordingly.

:: Barry Shannon (bshannon@cayan.com) is HR director at Cayan in Belfast

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