Now is the time to start scenario-planning and considering how to mitigate any negative effects

Every sector of the UK economy has benefited from the free movement of EU citizens through access to talented and skilled individuals as well as unskilled and lower-cost flexible labour. Membership of the EU has provided employers with a regulatory framework enabling executives to work flexibly and cost effectively across multiple jurisdictions.

Common sense dictates that although EU free movement as we know it will stop, whatever is negotiated in its place will not deprive UK businesses of this critical resource. But employers should anticipate that access to talent and people is unlikely to be as good as it is now; there will be a period of uncertainty with the possibility of increased labour costs and administrative complexity.

We are already seeing businesses take a longer-term strategic approach by future proofing for the loss of access to skills and labour from the EU.

Examples include redefining roles and the value proposition offered to employees with a view to making jobs more attractive, and up-skilling by taking full advantage of national programmes such as the Apprenticeship Levy. There is also an opportunity here for employers to engage and partner more closely with our educational institutes to ensure that young people are coming through with the particular skills that businesses need.

It is now time for employers to start scenario planning. In particular, around the possibility that they may lose the benefit of the multiple regulations that currently facilitate workers’ mobility and – at least for a transition period – may fall back into pre-EU membership arrangements.

The first step is to obtain a clear picture of where your employees are working, where their employer is located and which EU tax and social security systems are being paid into. Businesses could then consider the impact of leaving the EU without replication of the current reciprocal regulations and consider if there are actions they could take now to mitigate the impact.

What to know more? Contact Monique Beaulieu – Head of Reward Advisory Services, Grant Thornton UK LLP – at monique.beaulieu@uk.gt.com

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