The EU Referendum & HR…

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We are now just a calendar month away from the EU referendum.  Whatever the outcome this is a seismic moment for the UK, its population, and of course employers also.

This blog is of course strictly non-political, so we won’t be looking to influence our followers towards a decision either way.  Yet with the polls remaining (as they have for some time) neck and neck between the “remain” and “leave” voters – and with a huge swathe of the population seemingly undecided even at this late stage – it is surely important that employers have contingency plans in place in case the Brexit off-ramp is taken by the UK.

Yet our research suggests that many employers have not yet considered this situation in any detail.  We asked 291 HR & Finance professionals at our spring events* (in London, Wales and North West England) the following:

“Has your company considered the impact of an exit vote in the EU referendum?”

And the responses were far from reassuring as can be seen below:

  • Yes:  We have plans in place for such a decision:  2.41%
  • Yes:  We have considered but not yet undertaken planning:  11.00%
  • No:  We have not yet formally considered this:  60.82%
  • Don’t know:  21.65%
  • N/A:  This issue will not impact our organisation:  4.12%

Some may rightly argue that the earliest of these votes (the London one) took place before the referendum date was announced.  This is true, but remarkably the later votes showed a very similar pattern of results.  The bottom line appears to be that most employers have yet to take on board the importance of the referendum or considered how this will impact their business.

There are of course many and varied ways that an exit decision could impact any given UK employer, and the implications for Human Resources (HR) functions in particular are legion.

Perhaps the most obvious (and potentially the most important) dynamic would be around Employment Law.  This is a topic that will be covered in detail at our June Jelf International Seminar.  At the time of writing there are still places available for this event, so please let me know soonest (via the above link) if you would like to attend.

Another angle that our followers might want to consider is how the referendum will impact those Europeans who have already chosen to work in the UK.  A survey of such a grouping was reported this week by the CIPD and makes for interesting reading for any employer with employees from across the wider EU.

Finally, there is also the UK’s engagement and productivity deficit for employers to consider.  This is an issue that may need to be more urgently addressed if an exit vote takes place, but remains important in either scenario.  I wrote on this topic (shortly before the EU referendum was announced) and that post can be read here.

The above is just a small selection of topics that HR departments should really be considering over the next few weeks.  For more information on any of the above please speak to your usual Jelf consultant.

Best regards


*Events took place in London (February), Cardiff (March) and Chester (April)

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About the author

Steve Herbert is an award-winning thought leader on Pensions and Employee Benefit issues. His principal aim is better communicating the value and usage of employee benefits to employers. This he has achieved through many (highly successful) seminar series over the last decade, and his regular and widely read blog posts on the subject.
He also acts as a judge in HR and Employee Benefits industry awards, article writer, and product innovator. Steve is a regular contributor to DWP forums and compulsive responder to formal Government Consultations on pension and employee benefit issues. He is occasionally accused of making employee benefits interesting.