What does Brexit mean for the “British” workforce?

In the coming months following the vote to leave the EU, the landscape of British workforces is going to change. Irrespective of government choices and the timescales, you may already be experiencing impacts borne of the referendum. From fluctuation in levels of migrant workers, shifting legislation, and the belt tightening, there are significant implications for employers.

Do you know how you, as an employer, will retain low attrition levels of a skilled, motivated and productive workforce? How will adjustments to legislation affect you? How will your business cope if there’s a reduction in movement of EU workers to the UK?

Preparing for workforce changes

Reliance on migrant workers (as a percentage of total workforce):

  • Textile manufacturing – 11%
  • Building services – 14%
  • Warehousing and logistics – 15%
  • Food manufacturing – 31%

(Source: The Independent Online)

With the free movement of people a question at the forefront of the debate, the future status of EU workers in the UK is not guaranteed. An Australian style points-based system may be key to reaching current immigration targets, but will cut down the potential workforce for unskilled or low-skilled positions, which currently makes up three quarters of EU migrant workers.

It is time for many employers to start thinking carefully about how to combat this potential workforce deficit, for which astute workforce management to decrease attrition and attract local workers will be key. This could include:

  • Incentivising your workforce – offer a small number of overtime opportunities or rewards for productivity, or empower employees to control their work patterns with shift swap schemes.
  • Introducing flexible working – flexitime, time off in lieu, and annualised hours can all increase productivity up to 13% and decrease attrition by 50% (Source: Cranfield University).
  • Cost effective use of resource – do you often have shifts with a surfeit employee resource? Is overtime sometimes forced by a lack of resource? Do you lose money filling in the gaps with agency staff? There are significant savings to be made by automating intelligent rostering.

Preparing for changes in legislation

With the UK’s extraction from the EU, swathes of UK law will have to be divorced from the EU regulations and directives from which it originated. These laws will be rewritten and ratified, and will be highly influenced by the government of the day.

This means current legislation such as the working time directive may be set to change, and employers will have to be prepared to accommodate and comply with shifts in legalities and employee expectations. If you had a difficult time implementing the new living wage, this will be worth thinking closely about.

Recently, many Capita WFM customers have been implementing logic into their time and attendance systems to comply with various union guidelines, to help futureproof relationships with employees, and to keep one step ahead of legislation. This has now expanded to a number of clients implementing a Contract Based Working Rules capability to comply with schemes such as the Acas Model Workplace.

Preparing for financial impact

There are many differing opinions amongst employers on how best to deal with the financial impact of Brexit. Perhaps you’re suffering from external factors such as the instability in British Sterling, or the fact that your largest clients are based in the EU. Or from an internal perspective, you have a demotivated workforce and productivity is down, or you feel that your business is losing momentum due to the general uncertainty.

Whether you see this uncertainty as an opportunity to invest, or to focus on costs, now is the time to ensure you have contingency plans in place to weather out the changes ahead.