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Employment through Brexit

The quantity of commentary on Brexit is overwhelming – the outcome depends if any deal is reached and who will subsequently lead our government. Businesses must amongst uncertainty understand the likely future employment landscape and how to engage with their workforce.  

A workforce HR strategy for a post-Brexit world should include:

  • an audit of current employees’ status and exit risk
  • an assessment of the impact of evolving Brexit on them
  • a team in place to monitor and drive compliance
  • an evolving post-Brexit programme in place
  • consideration of other following matters.

Right to work and its impact on access to skilled employees

Non-British EU and EA (European Economic Area) employees currently use the free movement provisions to bring the skills and qualifications that benefit the UK labour market. Many businesses will be nervous about losing this talent pool.

There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens currently living in the UK until 30 June 2021; or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. This will give employers time to prepare. 

UK residing EU Nationals can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK; this will open fully by 30 March 2019.

The rights of European Economic Area citizens broadly mirrors those of EU workers.

Effect on employment law

Whether the UK can depart from current EU requirements in the future will depend on the shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Alternative trade arrangements may involve accepting some, or all, EU employment legislation.

Even if the UK has scope to diverge from EU employment law, changes may not necessarily be immediate or ultimately that far-reaching. Much EU employment law is based on UK legislation. Also, many UK employment rights do not stem from the EU (e.g. unfair dismissal) and the UK deliberately legislates to a higher level of protection (e.g. 28 days holiday leave).

Talent Drain during uncertainty.

Anticipating resource gaps and having a plan in place to fill them will help ensure business continuity.

Employers can promote the UK as an attractive place for talented employees to work – providing reassurance and keeping affected employees updated. However, employers must avoid positively discriminating in favour of affected EU workers, and associated risk of discrimination claims from UK employees.


People remain passionate about the issue of the UK leaving the EU; this results in heated debate and employees sharing heart-felt convictions. Employers must remain alert to the potential for Brexit-banter to turn into unacceptable and potentially discriminatory behaviour. If a problem is anticipated or identified, employers should remind their employees of the standards of conduct expected, including on social media.

For further advice with this or any other issues feel free to contact Clover HR.

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