Your people & Brexit

At the time of writing, it’s two weeks post referendum. The contest for the Conservative leadership is underway and the wheels have fallen off the Labour Party. Instead of the team procrastinating for too long over who we’d prefer to be Leader of our Government, instead we turned our thoughts to the potential impact that Brexit may have on the workplace. And we don’t mean in terms of speculation around which elements of employment law may or may not be revoked and how the employment law landscape may be reshaped in time (we’ll have to sit tight a little longer to understand that impact) but more about the immediate, potential impact of Brexit on your workforce.

 Allegations of racism or bullying

It’s been well documented that the Country has seen an increase in racist hate crime since the referendum outcome. Reports in various media suggest that 599 incidents of race hate crime were reported to Scotland Yard between 24 June (the day the result was announced) and 2 July. The Metropolitan Police has seen a rise of more than 50 per cent compared to the average daily number of 44 prior to 24 June. So what happens if racism rears its ugly head in the workplace? Employers have a duty of care to treat allegations of racism seriously. Any allegations of racism need to be investigated promptly and fairly (and if appropriate employee(s) suspended) followed by appropriate disciplinary action, in line with your company disciplinary procedure.

Workplace diversity

Very few people will have escaped the word ‘diversity’ in the last two decades. Organisations have driven the diversity agenda hard, developing diverse workforces to embrace and integrate a range of skills, Nationalities and cultures into the workplace.

In the current climate, a reminder to the workforce as to how you (as an organisation and employer) value and embrace diversity and respect individual difference, including differences in culture and political preference, would be timely. Make it clear that you expect all your employees to do the same – respect and value individual difference. A simple message along these lines could pay dividends in helping ensure cohesive teams, post Brexit.

Employee well-being

The Brexit outcome has had a profound effect on some. Anecdotally, employees have; expressed feelings of guilt if they subsequently believe they voted ‘the wrong way’, regrets of being ill informed on their vote, anxieties about the future, the fear of ‘not being liked’ by the rest of Europe. Now is the time to offer a level of reassurance to employees as their employer. This is where a level of empathy and engagement by line mangers with their teams, coupled with strong internal communications could support unsettled and anxious employees.

In summary

  • Ensure open and reassuring internal communications with your workforce
  • Treat any issues of alleged racism seriously. Investigate promptly and make it clear that as an employer you take a zero tolerance approach to racism (and any other form of bullying and harassment)
  • Reinforce the value of a diverse workforce and remind employees of the importance of respecting individual difference

How we can support

Our expertise within our Employment and HR team enables us to support employers in a number of ways during this turbulent time. We can run training sessions for managers and leaders on handling issues of alleged racism and bullying, host diversity workshops and support you in drafting sensible, internal messages and announcements to reinforce the Company’s position to your workforce. For more information on our HR consultancy offering please contact Bex Sinclair, Head of the HR Consultancy Team on 0345 209 1831 or email.