Brexit:  Employers encouraged to provide more & better communications to workers

Howden Employee Benefits survey finds that less than half of employers have communicated with their workforces regarding Brexit uncertainty

The UK’s trading future after the 29th March 2019 remains very uncertain.  As a result employers across the nation are quietly undertaking preparations to ensure that their business survives and thrives regardless of the eventual outcome of negotiations.

Yet it appears that the same careful preparations are not always being applied to employee relations.  A recent survey of 152 senior HR and Finance professionals at a seminar hosted by Howden Employee Benefits suggests that more than half of employers are not communicating their Brexit planning to their workforce.

The research found that only 12% of employers have been regularly communicating with their employees, with a further third (33%) of respondents issuing only limited announcements so far.  Worryingly, almost half (45%) of respondents were yet to issue any updates or announcements to their employees.

Steve Herbert, Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden Employee Benefits said;

“Regardless of whether you are for or against Brexit, the reality is that it represents the single biggest issue for UK employers and employees in many of our lifetimes, and right now millions of workers across the nation are deeply unsettled and concerned about their jobs, future employment rights, and earnings potential.

Employees are looking for support, guidance, and reassurance from their employer in such circumstances, yet it is apparent from our research that many organisations are just not offering any assistance in this important area.  This is deeply concerning.”

Howden point out that some workers who are left without such reassurance and support may begin to show signs of genuine stress, or possibly even poor mental health.

Another area of concern is the possible damage to employee engagement levels, which carries the worrying potential of reducing worker output at a time when every employee and employer in the UK needs to be maximising productivity to offset the uncertainties that may lie ahead.

Herbert continued;

“We would urge many more organisations to issue regular and comprehensive communications to their workers regarding the potential impact of Brexit.  We would also strongly suggest that company sponsored health and wellbeing tools are offered and promoted to assist those employees who are most concerned by the current political impasse and business uncertainty.  Items such as Employee Assistance Plans, remote access to a General Practitioner, Private Medical Insurance and Financial Education tools can all play an important part in the worker’s support structure at this uniquely uncertain time for the nation and its workforce.”

The survey also asked employers if they had offered any practical assistance to their UK based EU workers regarding their applications for “settled status” rights.  More than half of organisations represented in the survey (56%) had not done so, and a further 19% do not employ any EU employees in this country at present.  Of those that had offered support, 13% had done so for employee only, whilst a further 7% had provided support for the employee and his/her family.

Survey questions and responses:

Survey was undertaken at the Howden Employment Seminar in London on 6th February 2019.  152 delegates took part in the event.

Have you been communicating with your employees regarding the impact of Brexit negotiations on your organisation?

  • Yes, regularly                                                                          11.6%
  • Yes, some limited announcements so far                              33.0%
  • No, but will be doing so very soon                                          13.4%
  • No                                                                                           31.3%
  • N/A; Brexit will not impact our organisation at all                    5.4%
  • I’m not sure                                                                              5.4%

Total number of responses to this question:  112

Have you provided your EU workers with support regarding “settled status” applications?

  • We have provided support/ guidance (employee only)         13.2%
  • We have provided support/ guidance (employee + family)   6.6%
  • No                                                                                           55.7%
  • N/A; we do not employ any EU workers                                18.9%
  • I’m not sure                                                                             5.7%

Total number of responses to this question:  106

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