Implications of LEAVE vote for the employers and their workforce and how to deal with them

Author: Aggy Cybulska

During last week’s EU referendum the British people have chosen that they would be better off outside of the EU. The LEAVE result seems to have taken many by surprise. The political and economic instability that ensued is most likely to continue for a little while with the focus over the coming months shifting to appointing the new Prime Minister and stabilising the government.

The vote has demonstrated a split nation: 48% voted in favour of remaining, whereas 52% decided to leave. Such a close result made for a lot of emotive debate and resentment between the two camps.

Following the referendum, a lot of people noticed a mood change to that of intolerance and division; an unprecedented amount of acts of racism and xenophobia have been reported in the media.

Overnight, the future of the UK and each and every individual living and working here, became uncertain and full of unanswered questions.

There may be a number of implications of a Brexit vote for employers:

  1. They might have made contingency plans in case of Brexit and may need to now put those contingency plans into action (e.g. re-location).

If that’s the case, it will be crucial for employers to follow a robust staff consultation process ensuring relevant information is given to staff and all stakeholders are listened to before any decisions are made. Employers have a duty of care to staff and should manage change in such a way that any anxieties and stress are minimised.

  1. They may currently be employing EU citizens, who are undoubtedly concerned about the referendum result and unsure whether they will be able to continue living and working in the UK/ in the organisation.

I can’t stress enough how important it will be for the leadership to offer support and reassurance and ensure that the company stands as one team. I appreciate it is difficult to offer reassurance when there is an overwhelming lack of facts and information regarding the future at this stage. However, messages to staff could focus on the fact that nothing will change in the short to medium term. First of all, Britain is still officially in the EU until it enacts Article 50 followed by exit negotiations, which will extricate UK law from the EU law and determine the rights of the EU citizens residing in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU. Those exit negotiations are reported to take circa 2 years. EU citizens should be reassured that until some major changes are announced by the government, which is unlikely to happen in the immediate future, their employment will continue as normal.

Consolation can also be taken in the fact that any agreements regarding citizens are likely to be reciprocal therefore the UK will need to treat any EU individuals living in the UK reasonably in order to secure good treatment of its own citizens currently living in the EU countries.

Organisations should commit to keeping the workforce closely informed about any potential changes as the negotiation over the UK’s future relationship with Europe progresses and the likely implications become clearer.

Last but not least, in the climate of divisiveness and intolerance it will be important to emphasize that an organisation equally values all its workers and to reinforce a “one team” approach.

  1. They may have had plans to recruit from the EU for some of their future vacancies and now their growth plans may need to be revised.

Those organisations planning to recruit from the EU in the immediate and medium-long term future are in a bit of a trickier situation as no one currently knows what will be the rules surrounding any new migrants. It is likely though that as long as the UK officially remains in the EU things will remain as they are now, i.e. freedom of movement will be allowed with no restrictions. Unfortunately, the position on future EU migration will not become much clearer in the immediate future: any freedom of movement decisions are likely to be a bargaining element of trade negotiations which are predicted to take up to 10 years to complete. Having said that, freedom of movement for EU citizens is one of the key conditions of access to the European single market, and is likely to remain vastly, if not completely, unrestricted.

  1. Longer term, the employers will need to adjust to changes of regulations across the whole spectrum of business (e.g. employment, trade, immigration).

That will need to take place as and when the new regulations come into force. I believe that at least initially the post EU regulations will be kept as close to the original ones as possible as tight deadlines will necessitate minimum changes. New immigration legislation will be issued once a new Immigration Policy from within and outside of the EU is agreed.

We think it is absolutely crucial from a good leadership point of view to step in when the times are hard or uncertain. Informing and consulting with the workforce will help manage the anxiety whilst adapting and unifying management approaches should prevent any divisions. It will be very important to monitor matters closely for any signs of unequal treatment and to ensure the managers have the skills to deal with all the new challenges that surface as a result of LEAVE vote.

 If you are affected by the EU referendum and would like an empathetic but business focussed advice on the best way to proceed, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Aggy on 07789095897 or


Disclaimer: please note that views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute a business or legal advice. Please consult your business or legal adviser for advice suited to your individual circumstances.


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