Will Brexit break it?

Much has been written in HR circles on the ramifications of Brexit and to be trending and trendy I feel a self-respecting industry commentator joins in – but preferably to bring a bit of a fresh perspective. Here I’ll whizz you through the HR Brexit story so far and then take a look at whether in its wake Brexit could break our HR systems and operations on the ground.
 
The Brexit pre-vote literature focused on employment law. We conclude that the best and worst of it amounts to a tidying on TUPE, agency working and working time as a plethora of EU-derived legislations gets a tweak. But not great shakes and not for ages. To spell out ages, the UK’s got to invoke Article 50, wait 2 years to sort it, consult on domestic change, enact change, implement change. 2020?
 
So writers have decided to limit word-count on that one and move on to the impact on workforce demographics, insecurity and the potential tides in recruitment markets. I think quite rightly so to figure that this is a bigger issue. But it’s just as uncertain and some industries will be side-stepping the issues entirely. I’d fully endorse all advice out there to have an initial think about the degree of impact on you and for some no doubt it really is a case of disaster recovery planning.
 
What is sure is that for a long time ahead there will be a hefty dose of confusion. There is a danger in HR – or indeed cross-functionally at strategic levels – that too much debating clouds the today in terms of priorities for investment and current operational risk. We can even tend to be trendy in what we worry about.
 
On HR tech, for example, the greatest danger of Brexit is paralysis. Here’s how:
 
Will HR systems need to change? Sure, and as they always do, but in respect of the Brexit implications to legislation and workforce management, these are tinkerings and business as usual for product release schedules. Parliamentary, executive and judiciary delay on small decisions (holiday pay, immigration checks, compliance data requirements etc) does present a problem. We’ve seen this on a small scale as vendors struggle to respond to late-notice HMRC or pensions detail. It tends to be poor old payroll hardest hit, where system devil is in detail.
 
Of course with Brexit has come a change of government and that adds to the potential range of amendment. I’m interested in Theresa May’s focus on executive pay and will be watching out for a dual agenda on both gender and executive differences at the same time. Those of you in BI and Analytics jobs might be in for a career boost. Those of you with the more agile systems will do better on all of the above fall-out.
 
The HR technology market doesn’t seem terribly European to me, so I’m not thinking the industry itself is up for its own Brexiteering. In general, we’re much more aligned to opportunity in the US and in Asia for global deployments, for sharing new products and for finding expertise. So at the organisational level, it’s in our own house that Brexit could break it.
 
If uncertainty and confusion stops spend and investment – either by developers and innovators or by organisations – then be wary of losing focus on decaying systems. Either by accident (too much going on!) or by design (the waiting game). This the Brexit threat right now to the day-to-day life on the HR ground where systems need to keep calm and carry on.

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