What will Brexit mean for the UK care industry and its diverse workforce?
Brexit remains the hottest topic in boardrooms and around water coolers up and down the UK. No industry is exempt from the challenges posed by the ongoing political uncertainty about exactly what will happen after the UK leaves the EU. Some sectors have it tougher than others, and the care industry is set to be hit hard by the changes Brexit will bring about.
Care organisations are diverse employers, which is one of the main reasons they will be so affected by Brexit. To put things into perspective, the care industry in the UK employs around 1.35 million people, and 7% of those are from EU countries. While only 1% of UK nationals employed in care have university degrees, 15% of EU care workers are degree-qualified. That’s down to perception of the industry in part: the role is viewed as low-skilled in the UK, whereas in Europe, working in care is seen as a career path.
Maintaining the talent pipeline
As a result, UK employers are formulating specific Brexit strategies to ensure the talent pipeline is maintained in Europe, one of their primary recruitment grounds. Outreach programmes are being designed and delivered in EU member countries to target potential new recruits. Expat communities are of particular interest, and flexible work arrangements are on offer to help attract this group of workers.
Helping Hands, one of the largest care providers in the UK, is one such employer and their Head of Carer Recruitment, Ursula Jayes, is paving the way for proactive Brexit planning. Helping Hands has a workforce of over 3,000 employed in 90 branches who have delivered home care to 40,000 families across the UK.
Ursula and her team have, like so much of the industry, felt in the dark about how Brexit is set to impact critical business issues. Helping Hands’ response to this lack of information has been to build a network of care organisations who are facing common issues. The network offers employers regular informal advice, support and information and is a place to share ideas and knowledge related to Brexit.
Preparing for the new EU Settlement Scheme
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for care employers is the new EU Settlement Scheme. This scheme outlines the process for EU nationals to be able to continue living and working in the UK, and for new EU migrants to the UK. This step-by-step guide to settled status is a great starting point for HR teams and also a resource you can refer your EU national employees to.
The new system also means that employers will have to check European employees’ right to work in the UK, another administrative burden for already-overstretched HR departments. Systems will need to be put in place that will record and document which employees have applied for and been granted ‘settled status’. Currently no technology exists to monitor this data.
How you can prepare
Ursula believes the way companies communicate with their staff can have a big role to play over the coming weeks and months: “There’s huge importance in every employer having a reassuring communication strategy in place to make employees feel welcome and included in a post-Brexit UK.’
She offers care organisations the following advice in the face of Brexit.
- Stay up-to-date with government thinking about ‘settled status’ – check gov.uk for the latest updates.
- Think about how you will put into place systems that record and document which employees have applied for and been granted ‘settled status’.
- Update your EU recruitment strategy accordingly, making sure you are aware of the immigration rules that apply to where you plan to recruit from.
- Don’t forget internal communications: it’s vital to keep all staff informed of any changes Brexit brings, as well as reminding them of key messaging that EU staff are valued and included.
It’s very difficult to prepare for every scenario, especially when the situation is fluid and could change at any moment. That’s why being open, honest and communicating well is of paramount importance to make sure you’re as ready as you can be.
Focus on staff retention
Helping Hands have also put measures in place for a renewed focus on staff retention following Brexit. Ursula believes that employers need to offer support to existing EU staff to help them through the process of registering to remain. Employing a Brexit Officer has helped Helping Hands, as it enables expertise about Brexit, as well as provides a single point of contact for concerned staff.
Whatever happens after Brexit, there are a number of actions care employers can now take to protect and reassure staff and to mitigate the impact of unknown circumstances that still surround Britain’s exit from the EU at this late hour.
Want to find out more?
You can listen to Ursula Jayes’ talk in more depth about the issues Brexit presents for the care industry at the FIRM Birmingham’s Summer Conference on 19th June 2019. She’ll be there co-presenting with Matt Ingram-Smith from Tribepad.