This focus on business preparations seems to be at the expense of communication with employees. A recent survey by Howden Employee Benefits at a seminar, highlighted that a worrying 45% of employees say that they’ve never had any correspondence regarding Brexit planning.
Brexit has sparked concern and confusion across the country since the initial referendum result was announced and time is running out to put suitable measures in place. Employers have been hard at work as they organise and develop policies and procedures, but this level of effort has not been sufficiently visible and there has been little communication of the proposed changes to the workforce at large.
Howden indicated during its seminar that workers left without reassurance and support regarding Brexit can begin to show genuine stress markers and a decline in mental health. They also highlighted possible damage to engagement levels from employees, which can translate into reduced productivity levels that work against the need for businesses to mitigate uncertainty during these turbulent times.
The correspondence given to EU workers based in the UK regarding their ‘settled status’ is perhaps of still greater concern, with 56% of all employers answering the survey indicating that they have had no correspondence at all in this regard. This issue of settlement for EU workers is particularly worrying considering the imminent reduction of rights regarding employment that workers will face post-Brexit.
If there is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, then up until the 31st of December 2020, all EU nationals will have the right to arrive, work and settle within the UK on a permanent basis. This date extends to the 30th June 2021 if there is a ‘deal’. Beyond these dates, all EU nationals will be required by law to obtain a work visa to permit before commencing work within the UK.
For recent arrivals from the EU, the law becomes more complicated, however. Anyone who has lived for less than 5 years in the UK by the 31st December will have to apply for a ‘pre-settled status”, which grants them the right to remain in the UK until the 5 year mark is reached. They can then apply for ‘settled’ status when that time comes. In addition to proof of identity, there is also a requirement for proof of continuous residence in the UK as well as regular employment being undertaken during their time in the country, within reasonable bounds.
In summary, there is a clear lack of informative and concise information regarding the way in which Brexit will affect workers, both native to the UK and EU. Employers are being advised to invest more time into tackling concerns within their workforces in order to ease tensions and improve mental health levels in these worrying times. HR teams all across the country should be mobilising to communicate with their EU workers and assist these valued team members with the challenges they are now facing, or risk losing their expertise.
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