With the triggering of Article 50 what is the likely impact for UK HR professionals, we look at the views of the CIPD and REC.
The overriding message is that Government needs to listen to the concerns of UK businesses. The economy has proven to be more robust than many commentators believed with nearly full employment. The next two years are crucial in safeguarding stability and growth.
Immigration and worker rights must be addressed as soon as possible, says CIPD CEO Peter Cheese, a sentiment is echoed by Kevin Green, chief executive at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), who believes that it is vital that government listens to business throughout the negotiations. He commented that “The UK labour market has performed well since the EU referendum. Employers are continuing to create jobs and employment has reached record levels. As Brexit negotiations begin, we need the government to prioritise a deal which creates more jobs and prosperity.
Kevin Green further comments “Our members want the status of EU nationals working here to be confirmed as soon as possible. EU nationals make up seven per cent of the workforce and in some sectors that figure is much higher. In food processing, nearly a third of the workforce are EU nationals. One in five tech workers in London are from the EU. These people are integral to UK business and future wealth creation.
The CIPD’s Peter Cheese outlined his observations stating that “It may take years to fully understand the implications of Brexit for the UK but it’s also important to recognise that this is just one of many forces shaping the future world of work. Now more than ever, we need government and businesses to put people and skills development at the heart of their thinking.”
On immigration Peter outlines his views: “The future of the UK’s immigration system will be one of the most significant and challenging questions to solve in the UK’s exit negotiations.
“CIPD research and official data have already shown a reduced flow of migrant workers from the EU into the UK since the referendum and there’s evidence that many EU workers are considering leaving the UK. It’s essential that the status and rights of EU migrants in the UK is confirmed early in the negotiations to give certainty to those individuals and help employers to retain vital skills as they plan their workforce development strategies for the future.
“While we expect there to be changes to the UK’s immigration policy there will undoubtedly still be a need for organisations to be able to access both skilled and unskilled labour from the EU, and further afield. It’s crucial that the Government designs a flexible immigration system that meets the demands for greater control, but also enables UK organisations to access the workers and skills they need if they can’t access those skills from within the UK. This has been particularly recognised in key sectors such as healthcare, hospitality, transportation, agriculture, and construction, as well as fields like higher education, where significant levels of EU migrant workers have been attracted and would take many years to replace. We urge the Government to engage with businesses and representative organisations to ensure the new system can continue to support the skill and labour needs of UK businesses and keep our economy moving.”
On employment law:
“A key area of concern for many HR professionals is whether there will be any significant changes to employment rights and law. Our employment law is a mix of EU and UK based legislation and it would be very complex and time-consuming to unpick for little, if any, real gains. In its current form, we believe UK employment law and the employment rights framework provides an appropriate balance in providing flexibility for employers and security for individuals. Importantly we need to address the issues of employment rights for the growing number of self-employed and contract workers, but these are not directly related to Brexit. It’s vital that employment rights don’t become a bargaining chip in the course of negotiations as this would be a major distraction when the Government should be focusing on more pressing issues such as migration and access to skills outside of the UK.”
“If the UK is going to thrive on leaving the EU, then it’s essential that businesses, as well as government, have a greater understanding of what is going on inside our workforces; the skills needed today and tomorrow and the barriers that are blocking productivity. For many organisations, Brexit has been the sharp wake-up call they needed to look at and better understand their workforces, to focus more on the changing skills and capabilities that they need to remain competitive, and understand where and how they are going to access or develop those capabilities for the future.
“For government and education, this is a pivotal moment to address the failings in the UK’s skills system on basic numeracy and literacy skills, and work readiness and support. Despite significant investment in education, the UK continues to suffer from a growing gap in the skills needed by business and poor performance in international league tables on even the most basic skills. For many years, easy access to workers from the EU and beyond has often acted to mask these problems, but a reduction in overseas talent will lay bare these failings. We need government and business to work more closely together to address both the demand and the supply of skills for the future and how improvements to skills policy and productivity can be made in order to strengthen our economy.”
“This is a pivotal moment and a real ‘call to arms’ for the HR profession too, to ensure that our organisations embrace diversity, that our people are engaged and have the chance to develop and that we’re creating successful and sustainable businesses for the future, whatever shape it takes.”