Britain's workforce has little optimism for employment post-Brexit

21 March 2019 4 min. read
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Following two heavy defeats for the Government’s Brexit deal, and a third being ruled out by Parliamentary convention, Theresa May has requested a short extension of Article 50. While this offers a brief reprieve for those anxious of Brexit’s impact on the economy, it is likely to see the nation in the same situation in three months’ time. In this uncertainty, more than a third of UK residents believe that Brexit will negatively affect their current employment.

With the Brexit process having stalled, less than two weeks before the two-year deadline set out in Article 50 is set to pass, confidence in the UK economy sits at a low-point. Recent studies of both large and small businesses have found that British capital is facing a turbulent 12 months. Small and mid-sized enterprise leaders in Britain and Ireland in particular harbour serious reservations about the performance of the nations’ economies in the coming year, while more than 9 in 10 think that economic conditions have worsened in the last 12 months.

Brexit is expected to have a major impact on employment too. While the UK’s unemployment rate currently stands at its lowest since 1971, this seems be partly aided by lax employment laws that incent companies to hire large numbers of staff rather than invest in things like plant machinery, since it's easier to reverse in the event of needing to make a swift exit from the UK. With many firms still waiting to see the outcome of Brexit, a large number of jobs could soon exit the country.

Britain’s workforce has little optimism for employment post-Brexit

Meanwhile, Britain’s BAME community is increasingly afraid that leaving the EU is going to impact society’s views on racism, and their future employability. According to a recent survey, 52% of BAME citizens fear their career progression will be impacted by Brexit, while 62% anticipate it will have a negative impact on UK society more broadly.

In this environment, it is perhaps easy to see why a new survey from professional services organisation Personal Group has found that more than a third of UK residents now believe they will see Brexit hit their current employment in a negative way. Personal Group surveyed 1551 people in February 2019, and found that 34.25% of UK residents believe that Brexit would negatively impact their current employment, an increase of around 4% when compared to survey results from 2018. Only a negligible 3% of respondents think that Brexit will positively affect their current employment.

Interestingly, those operating in the gig economy feel even more vulnerable than their directly employed counterparts. Without any permanent contract to secure rights to benefits – including a redundancy package – contractors and those who are self-employed feel much more negative about Brexit this year than in 2018. When asked ‘How do you think Brexit will affect your current employment?’ the results captured just last month showed an increase of more than 50% amongst contractors expecting a negative impact than in 2018, and a 33% increase in those who are self-employed expecting a negative impact.

At the same time, the data also revealed that it is not just traditionally marginalised members of the workforce who expect that their jobs will face the axe in any future reckoning brought on by Brexit. In 2019, the number of men who believe Brexit will affect their employment negatively increased on last year’s figures by almost 8%, in stark contrast to a less than 1% rise for women. This is hardly a vote of confidence in Brexit from women, however, and may simply be the result of many female professionals – who still face institutional discrimination in the workplace – feeling things are already bad, with or without Brexit.

Commenting on the findings, Deborah Frost, CEO at Personal Group commented, “The results of our research clearly show that the current political environment has created an added level of uncertainty amongst UK workers around their employment prospects. Employers want to retain the confidence and enthusiasm of their employees. Offering recognition and being able to communicate directly with employees, wherever they are based, is key in building motivation and engagement, and emerging from this tricky period with the employee team’s morale intact.”