Guy Lougher: UK workers resilient in face of Brexit

Pinsent Masons partner Guy Lougher says workers are 'determined to tough it out' after Brexit. Picture: Contributed
Pinsent Masons partner Guy Lougher says workers are 'determined to tough it out' after Brexit. Picture: Contributed
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Regardless of where you stand on the Brexit debate, we can take some comfort from the resilience of the British workforce, ­according to recent research carried out by Pinsent Masons.

Our poll, conducted by YouGov, reveals some interesting opinions on how ­Brexit will impact professionals in a diverse range of sectors, including financial ­services, retail, accountancy, health, IT and telecoms.

What came across strongly was the importance of good communications

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The results point towards a UK workforce demonstrating real resilience in the face of what most would accept is an uncertain future. A downturn in the economy is widely anticipated, but there is ­confidence that things will turn out OK.

What came across strongly was the importance of good communications and the benefits of being open with staff about the circumstances a business is likely to be in, and what it is doing to minimise ­disruption and adapt to the new post-Brexit environment.

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Those who felt their businesses were not open were more likely to be ­fearful about prospects, and those who described employer communications as poor around the time of the June referendum said they would be most likely to leave the UK within the next 12 months. ­Conversely, staff who rated their employer’s ­communications as good were ­notably more confident about the ability of the business to react to the opportunities afforded by Brexit.

Our survey sends a pointed message to UK plc that a clear plan for the future direction of a business is not only vital but must be communicated openly to staff if they want to maximise the chances of retaining talent. While most of those surveyed anticipated an economic downturn post-Brexit, few of them feared a rise in inflation or being made redundant, and in general UK workers remain upbeat about their professional prospects.

Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) thought there was a real ­prospect of an economic downturn in the next three years but, despite that, more than half (60 per cent) were ­confident that their employer was well-placed to react to economic difficulties, compared to 1 in 7 who did not feel confident.

Optimistically, one in three professionals (37 per cent) thought it was likely their employer would increase salaries to offset any rise in inflation over the next year. However, 57 per cent expected their real pay to drop this year, even though economic growth is forecast to accelerate.

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In Scotland, it was a different story ­compared to the UK national picture and fewer people were as upbeat. In fact, 75 per cent of Scottish professionals ­surveyed believe it was likely that an economic downturn was on the cards, while 60 per cent thought they had little chance of a pay rise within the next 12 months. Scottish-based workers shared the same view as Londoners in thinking there was a realistic possibility of losing their jobs if there was an economic downturn (41 per cent).

Regardless of economic factors, UK ­workers seem determined to tough it out, with just 8 per cent saying they were likely to leave the UK in the next 12 months as a result of Brexit.

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The IT and telecommunications sector appeared to be most at risk of a diminishing talent pool with 22 per cent saying they would consider moving to another European country. London is the region most likely to be affected, with 18 per cent of respondents saying it was likely they would relocate in the next two to three years, compared to only 10 per cent of Scottish workers.

Pinsent Masons has launched a corporate advisory platform called BASe and formed a public policy unit to support businesses engaging with government on Brexit issues. This YouGov survey is another tool which helps shape the Brexit debate and assist business in making the right decisions.

Guy Lougher is partner and head of the Brexit advisory team at legal firm Pinsent Masons

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