18 April 2019

How different companies are approaching Brexit communications with staff

A study by the Confederation of British Industry and Deloitte detailed the following responses, in answer to how they, as HR professionals, had approached and continue to approach Brexit communications with staff. 

General Manager and HR Director, Global Airbus UK

“Our initial internal communications on Brexit were limited to signposting what our senior team had been saying externally in the media. We quickly learnt however that a key element of fostering good employee relations around Brexit is ensuring high-profile decisions and news is circulated sufficiently internally before it is externally.

We decided to conduct a survey of our roughly 2,000 staff who are directly affected by Brexit, including UK nationals living in the EU as well EU nationals in the UK, to inform our communications plan going forward. This included questions such as ‘how are you feeling following the referendum result?’ and ‘are you actively considering returning to your country of origin?

The results showed a clear desire for the company to be more hands on in providing support. Therefore we hired a third party... to come in and run workshops for affected staff. These sessions covered practicalities of the EU Settlement Scheme and allowed staff to personally ask questions such as ‘what can I be doing now?’, ‘when will I be able to apply?’ etc. The feedback on these sessions has been positive. We followed these sessions up with an extensive Q&A document available to all staff. We also created a dedicated space on our intranet for affected employees to use as a noticeboard to share advice and best practice between themselves. This has been especially used by UK staff in the EU who are trying to navigate varying procedures in local communes and regional town halls.

We have just finished conducting a second Brexit survey of affected staff to gauge the temperature and understand their continuing needs in relation to support required from the company. Our overarching focus continues to be regularly engaging with affected employees by various means including transnational webinars to provide them with the latest updates and relevant information as and when it becomes available, so they can make informed decisions about their future.”


Senior Vice President HR, GSK 

“A key component of our Brexit planning has been supporting our people who may be personally affected by Brexit. GSK is offering access to specialist immigration services for those wishing to understand what they need to do to continue to live and work in the UK post-Brexit, or to help formalise their residency status either in the UK or an EU country. In summer 2018, we ran a webinar that outlined the latest information on the EU Settlement Scheme, and we continue to provide regular, informative updates to affected employees – We’re offering UK nationals in the EU personalised assessments and specialist support to navigate local immigration systems. A personal consultation with an immigration services provider is available to both UK and EU based staff, if needed.

Beyond this, we have given managers detailed information packs to guide conversations about Brexit, and our dedicated intranet hub houses extensive information including a recording of the webinar, Brexit factsheets, employee Q&A, links to relevant GOV.UK pages and an internal Brexit Mailbox for questions about our Brexit activity and support. Employees have said that they appreciate the timely information and support that GSK has provided.

We have made Android devices available to help EU nationals in the UK with their Settled Status applications. “ 


HR Director at a hospitality business

“To date, we have issued a targeted email communication and FAQ document to our property managers to be shared with staff via notice boards and individual meetings - guidance has been for managers and employees to visit GOV.UK for advice, particularly for information regarding the EU Settlement Scheme. Given limitations with the information available within our own database, and the risk of missing individuals who are impacted, we believe a targeted email to local management is the most effective way of communicating with those people who will need to take action.

We are currently assessing the requirement for a high level communication of reassurance to our employees, as we monitor the situation closely over the coming days.

We have purchased a number of Android devices to ensure that those who do not have access can self-scan their ID document rather than having to send this in the post.” 


HR Director at a Professional services firm 

“Within a few weeks of the referendum result we compiled data on the number of EU nationals within our UK workforce, around 500, and privately wrote to each of them. The aim of this letter was to reassure staff, with a broad message they were highly valued and we wanted them to continuing working for us in the UK.

Despite the positive intention, the letter received a mixed response. Some welcomed it, however many felt like they had been singled out. Also, that there was not much ‘value added’ with no certain information at this early stage. Several added because it was private, concerned UK peers and colleagues were not aware the business was trying to reassure them. Looking back on it, I think we failed to appreciate the extent of conversations which were already organically happening between EU staff and their line managers.

Following this our executive committee decided the best way to communicate future information on Brexit and the EU Settlement Scheme would be through line managers and FAQ documents available for all staff, rather than targeted communications direct from HR. Ahead of the vote in Parliament on the Brexit deal we updated our FAQs for managers and published it on our internal intranet for all employees to be able to access. At the heart of this document is signposting to relevant pages on settled status on GOV.UK, rather than providing advice ourselves.

We haven’t made a final decision yet on how active we will be in supporting staff, but at the moment we are not planning on running a central HR function to support affected staff through the application process. We don’t think there is sufficient demand from staff for this and the majority will be able and willing to complete this in their own time. But we will be briefing managers and HR teams if staff do ask questions and actively seek further support with applying.

Ultimately, we do not want to misinform people. So in a similar way as to how we approach staff’s tax arrangements, we want to avoid providing immigration advice and stick to pointing people in the direction of government advice.” 


Quotes obtained from study here


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