After months of being told that it was the least likely option, businesses have in recent days been faced with ever more urgent warnings that, in the words of Michael Gove (who is now in charge of preparations), a no-deal Brexit is now a very real prospect.

This has clearly alarmed the CBI, which has been arguing for months that this would be the worst possible outcome for jobs and for the UK economy.

It has now produced What comes next? The business analysis of no deal preparations, which includes 200 recommendations to help accelerate no-deal preparations for UK, EU and companies.

The CBI argues that neither the UK nor the EU are ready for no deal, so it has listed these practical steps which both sides, and businesses, can take to reduce the worst effects.

As thousands of employers have built their businesses on the ability to easily move staff across the Channel — whether to carry out short-term work, provide “fly-in-fly-out” services, or go on longer-term secondments — the effect of no deal on people is just as important as the effect on trade, it insists.

Taking care of employees

In its recommendations of particular interest to these employers, the CBI highlights that, while some of the filters the Government has applied to its no-deal advice are sensible, for example dividing by sector or area, to be truly business-friendly they should focus on essentials.

In particular, it suggests that they should allow filtering by role, so that HR directors can access information about EU employees easily and chief financial officers can access information about tax and tariffs, without worrying about other elements.

If no deal occurs, the CBI insists, then both sides must prioritise people.

For example, business’ internal communications processes should be geared towards reaching out and reassuring employees affected by Brexit. It will be important to have communications prepared and signed off in advance of no deal occurring, in order to be ready to send very quickly to this audience, the CBI argues.

Some of the steps that businesses have found to be effective with EU citizen employees in the UK include sharing Government advice with staff in regular updates as it is produced, and undertaking efforts to buddy EU citizens with lower levels of English language skills with native speakers.

Comment by Croner Associate Director Paul Holcroft

With this continued Brexit uncertainty, it is crucial that employers take steps to be ready for a no deal and do not underestimate the impact that this could have on their staff.

Employees may be concerned over what this could mean for their job stability and will be increasingly looking to their employer for reassurance for what a no deal will mean.

While we wait to see what will happen come October, I would advise employers to focus their attention on upskilling their current staff by identifying those with potential and providing training to help them progress in the company.

Last reviewed 9 August 2019