By: Simon Mason
Vice President, Business Development EMEA – Graebel
Nearly one year ago, UK citizens voted by a 52-48 margin to leave the European Union. One couldn’t help notice the rhetoric leading up to the vote mirrored much of the anti-globalization discussion in the US in the midst of their national election campaigning at the time.
Of course, the UK won’t actually leave the EU until 2019. Regulations and bilateral/regional treaties are forthcoming, but it’s never too early to plan and prepare.
Graebel fosters an industry-wide learning culture. There are few things we like better than sitting down to learn from our clients while providing a forum for them to share their experience and insights – with us and others in the industry. After all, best practices are meant to be shared and not hoarded.
In that spirit, Graebel sponsored and hosted a half-day insideMOBILITY session in London at the historic Westminster Abbey on May 24th. The program featured presentations from experts as well as a general discussion with experienced Mobility industry professionals on several topics, including “Managing Mobility through Brexit.” In that portion of the program, participants, or “Insiders” as we call them, discussed at length what they are and should be doing to prepare for Brexit.
The delegates were very aware, of course, that EU-based companies will ultimately have to comply with new regulations related to healthcare, social security, immigration, travel, work visas and many other details. But since no one can predict the substance of those requirements, it’s still too early for multinational companies to adjust most of their internal Mobility policies and procedures in those areas.
We learned, though, that if you’re tasked with international Mobility responsibilities, this is not a “wait and see” environment. Rather, you should:
- Demonstrate awareness and sensitivity. Your employees abroad and your foreign nationals working in the UK know that changes are coming. Reassure them that you’re on top of things. Provide status reports and announce any new developments. Establish committees to monitor areas like employee taxation, social security and the other dynamic legal issues. Develop a process for employees to confidentially ask questions.
- Plan for scenarios. Draft papers that summarize high-level options related to the new rules. Include thoughts on what could change and what likely will not change. Consider how the new requirements could trigger internal policy revisions in areas like compensation, employment structure and management models.
- Increase data collection. Compile (and then protect) information about employee citizenship, immigration status, employment contracts and assignment letters.
The delegates agreed that in the future, moving employees across borders in EU countries will take more time. That will require longer planning cycles for business units and perhaps a greater reliance on local talent for tasks previously handled through short-term transfers or extended business travel.
At this time, the level of planning activity on any Brexit-related issue should match the current level of certainty about the future regulations in that area. No doubt, 18 months from now there will be more urgency. But for now the general consensus is that companies have the opportunity to shorten the future internal decision and implementation cycles by tackling certain things today – like employee communication, scenario planning, and data collection.
Finally, another theme that seemed to lie just below the surface in the Brexit discussion that day was that companies will always find a way to do what needs to be done regardless of the global environment. One participant summed that up pretty well, I thought, by observing, “Brexit is political…it won’t stop business [from] doing business.”
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