How is the Brexit vote affecting workers?
The simple answer, of course, is that it is too early to tell. The electorate’s decision on 23 June was just a decision, not the actual act of leaving the EU. Since then, we’ve had a substantial fall in the value of sterling which will make imported goods and components more expensive (including petrol) which has yet to feed into the economy, although it may have made foreign holidays this summer more expensive. And the recent expressions of business malaise have further dented share values but will also feed only gradually through into investment decisions and job losses.
But a report this weekend from the professional body for HR-professionals, the CIPD, suggests that pessimism is rife among people at work. 44% said they felt pessimistic, with the most worried workers being younger workers (63% of 25-34 year olds), public sector workers (61%) and those in the voluntary sector (58%). Seven times as many workers felt less secure in their job than felt more secure as a result of the Brexit vote.
Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD, said:
“This survey shows that Brexit has proven to be a seismic event in people’s working lives and reveals that there is significant level of pessimism in the immediate aftermath of the vote. This is especially prevalent amongst public and voluntary sector workers who are already showing signs of feeling less secure in their roles and expect the economic consequences of Brexit to adversely affect their jobs. Hopefully, as the political and economic situation becomes clearer, this will subside, but in the short term there is a clear need for UK employers to do more to engage with their workforce about the likely effects of Brexit on their organisation.”
The TUC is calling for employers to talk to their unions about what can be done to reassure workers, but more importantly, what can be done to reduce the risks of job losses and lower wages. We’re also calling on the Government to commit to measures that would stimulate investment and growth, including more training opportunities – 21% of the workers CIPD surveyed said they felt they needed to learn more skills to deal with the challenges of Brexit.
Frances O’Grady responded to the CIPD survey saying:
“We need to ensure that working people do not pay the price for Brexit. Critical to that is making sure employees feel secure in their jobs. Employers can start by being open with their employees about any challenges ahead. And if they invest in training and skills for their workforce, they can boost productivity while showing that their staff are valued.
“Government must show its confidence in the British economy by kickstarting investment to support jobs and growth. That means ministers greenlighting Heathrow’s third runway, announcing an expansion of high-speed rail and kicking off a big programme to build more affordable homes. The knock-on effect of greater confidence that the UK is open for business will make everyone feel more secure in their jobs.”
(Footnote: The CIPD’s report of workplace pessimism is in stark contrast to the unjustifiable optimism of one publicity hungry recruitment company, which said today that the Brexit vote hasn’t had much effect on vacancies, although the number in June – that’s before the referendum, right? – was ‘the lowest on record’. No, I’m not linking to it, it’s clearly clickbait!)