There is so much we don't know about the future; whether we'll be in or out of Europe, whether we'll have a hard or soft Brexit, whether we'll have another referendum and even whether we'll have a new prime minister.

If the only certainties in this world are death and taxes, hot on their heels must be the certainties that non-UK nationals are worried about an uncertain future. These feelings will inevitably accompany people to work, and so employers need to be prepared.

Non-UK nationals

We have had details of the settlement scheme for some months now, and so most employers and employees should be aware of its implications. A useful employer's toolkit issued by the Government in relation to the settlement scheme can be found here. There is no indication as yet of substantial changes, although as the dates slip back and the Article-50-triggering period is extended, there may well be some tweaks to dates.

Through the state of limbo, there are steps that employers can take, even with the uncertainties:

  • Clear information about the settlement scheme should be available – the details should be visible on a company’s intranet, a blanket email should be sent to all who are affected, and it should be mentioned in line manager meetings;
    - Don’t forget those employees/workers who are on annual leave, long-term sickness absence or maternity, paternity or shared parental leave;
    - The purpose of sharing this information is to ensure all who are affected understand what they need to do, have had sufficient time to plan, and that employers have an indication of where their EU nationals intend to be once, and if, Britain leaves the EU;
  • Offer the use of a compatible mobile device to those who might need it to apply for settled status.

Conflict within the workplace relating to Brexit

The potential sources of conflict over Brexit are many and varied. As time goes by, and the desire for certainty increases, tensions are likely to rise, and not everyone is going to agree with one another on political issues. Whether conflict, and maybe even bullying, is related to Brexit or any other more day-to-day issue, employers must always use the anti-bullying and/or disciplinary policy as their frame of reference. Most policies should reiterate the need for employers to treat each other with respect and not create an intimidating or hostile workplace; this also applies to anything that can be deemed as “Brexit banter”.

  • Gently remind staff of the anti-bullying policy – directly quoting the reference regards “not creating a hostile environment” in whatever guise it appears;
  • It doesn’t need to be subtle – posters around the premises, reminders in team meetings, checking with managers that they are being vigilant and dealing with complaints etc. – where there is a high risk of tempers running high, subtlety is not required;
  • Promptly and consistently address any complaints made and make it clear that there is zero tolerance to bullying and potentially discriminatory behaviour; and
  • “It was only banter” is a defence that will win no points at tribunal!
Further information

Fore more information, please contact Hazel Findlay.