UK employers 'not prepared for Brexit result'

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UK employers 'not prepared for Brexit result' (image credit: iStock/Andrew Linscott)

A new in-depth study published by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has highlighted the shock that was felt among many UK employers in the wake of the recent result of the EU referendum.

According to the organisation's research, June's referendum result was an outcome that many companies simply had not prepared for, as they felt in the run-up to the vote that there was little chance of a Leave decision proving the majority.

However, when it came to light that this was the actual result, it sent shockwaves through many businesses.

The NIESR asked 17 employers with workforces ranging from 30 to 15,000 to be involved in the study. Describing their initial reaction, phrases including "shock", "horror" and "devastation" were among some of the most verbose.

One of the biggest issues raised by respondents was the impact on attitudes within workforces concerning migrants from the EU. There was (and still is) widespread concerns that these individuals could face problems with continued employment in the UK once the final negotiations regarding Brexit are carried out.

The free movement of individuals within the EU is one of the founding tenets of the organisation and with the UK now set to leave, it raises questions of whether or not skilled workers will still be able to enter the country in sufficient numbers to meet the demands of many established industries.

For instance, one respondent - the chief executive officer of a well-known UK bakery - said that despite assurances that migrant numbers will be maintained at a level that supports UK industry, he noted that anybody he has spoken to within his own profession is not sure that this will be the case.

Meanwhile, a rise in xenophobic incidents was also reported by some participants in the study, with employers acting quickly to address this serious and worrying problem when issues have been brought to light.

Dr Heather Rolfe, associate research director at NIESR, said: "Like many people, employers were not prepared for the Leave result. But unlike others, employers have already felt the impact and have needed to reassure worried EU workers. They feel regret that they were not more involved in the campaign and that business failed to convey to the public how changes to the economy impacts on people's lives.

"As we negotiate our way out of the EU, politicians need to minimise damage to businesses and individuals. A new immigration policy should be formed in consultation with employers, among others."