Last week our Retail Industry Group hosted a ‘Retail Brexit Trade Briefing.’ There was a very lively discussion delving into the opportunities and challenges that Brexit may have for the retail trade. The main concerns of delegates included:

  • How to retain EEA nationals (many businesses reported having a high percentage EEA workforce)
  • How to attract and retain EEA nationals in a period of high employment and in what is perceived by many as a ‘hostile’ immigration environment
  • What can we do to fill roles post Brexit
  • Will we see wage inflation as we struggle to fill roles

The panelists and speakers included Stephen Robertson, Richard Lim and Ray Symons from Retail Economics and our very own Dr. Robert MacLean, James Wharton, Supinder Sian and Matthew Lewis. Their strategic, political, economic and legal insights included the following hot tips:

  • If you haven’t already done so, identify who in your workforce is an EEA national and which UK nationals are working for you in an EEA country. This will allow you to consider what impact Brexit may have and the degree of risk involved. Consideration may then be given to what evidence those individuals may need to produce/gather to protect their immigration status.
  • Consider supporting your affected workers with any necessary visa applications. The level of support can range from effective communication with your workforce, setting up helplines, to paying for the visa application. One size does not and will not fit all.
  • Analyse and assess the roles and skill levels of your affected workers – if post Brexit free movement ends, consider what impact this may have, what can be done now and any appropriate strategies – for example, upskilling your existing workforce, diversifying your talent pool, automation, or, in some cases relocation.
  • A skills and labour shortage may lead to salary increases – what impact is this likely to have on your business and budgets?
  • Right to work checks and procedures are likely to change  – does your business have sufficient resources and training to cope? Getting this wrong could expose you to a fine of up to £20,000.
  • Get involved with consultations and feedback to the Home Office – be armed with hard facts/statistical analysis about the impact on your business if you want to encourage/ change/shape future immigration policy.
  • Employee engagement may be key to retaining your workforce and best talent.

We will continue to keep you abreast of Brexit news and changes. In the meantime, you may find our Brexit FAQ’s for EEA workers which are regularly updated of use. If you are interested in finding out more about how Brexit may affect your business please contact our immigration Partner, Annabel Mace.