WITH just 50 days to go until Britain leaves the EU, Brexit is continuing to cause uncertainty among many businesses. However, one local employment and immigration expert says it needn’t mean paralysis.

James Humphery, a senior solicitor at law firm Trethowans, acknowledges there’s uncertainty but says it needn’t mean businesses in the region should be locked in limbo.

“The sky hasn’t fallen in and there are clear opportunities for HR professionals to give their businesses a positive lead,” he says. “Of course, there are some factors which could see UK businesses lose EU workers, particularly if people perceive a more secure future elsewhere. However, for companies that prepare well and step up to the challenges, there are opportunities to gain an advantage – good preparation is time and money well spent.”

James says that the EU Settlement Scheme provides security for migrant workers from the EU and therefore those local companies who employ them.

He says: “For those EU citizens and their families already in the UK, it enables them to apply for settled or pre-settled status, which would permit them to continue living and working here after 29 March and beyond the proposed implementation period which, if it happens, is due to end on 31 December 2020. The message seems to be, settled means settled.”

James adds reassurance that businesses are unlikely to have to battle huge changes in employment law and practice rules this spring.

He says: “It seems unlikely that Brexit will prompt significant changes in UK employment law in the short or medium terms. The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 maintains the status quo, and it is unlikely that rules such as TUPE, the Working Time Regulations or Maternity/Paternity Leave and Pay will be completely swept away.

Brexit may stop the direct importation of EU law but this will probably only have a cosmetic impact on UK employment law during the next three to five years.”

James’ top tips for HR professionals:

• Plan ahead. Recruit for skills gaps now.

• Take time to know what’s happening and understand your workers hopes and fears. Be pro-active in showing empathy and giving reassurance that migrant workers are and will remain valued and above all, welcome.

• Understand the EU Settlement Scheme and how it may help your EU workers and their families. Talk to them about it, support them with it and consider paying their application fees.

• Review your organisation’s pay and benefits and at the same time review your strategies for staff development and retention. The point is to avoid finding yourself in a seller’s market with everyone else.

• Understand the Right to Work regime which has recently been revised.

James is an immigration specialist in the Trethowans employment team and advises businesses and individuals on immigration law. He has written further guidance for businesses on issues relating to Brexit. To read them visit his page at www.trethowans.com/james-humphery