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How to help your workforce adapt to Brexit if you are still experiencing challenges

Four months have now passed since the end of the EU transition period on 31st December 2020. Since then, there have been many barriers that businesses in the UK and EU have had to handle. Some people have experienced unexpected costs, while others have faced supply shortages. Some have even been forced to close. Other complaints have centred around post-Brexit red tape, skills gaps and rules of origin.

The issues faced by businesses led to a decline in exports to the EU, though this has begun to improve in more recent weeks.

While select companies have identified the advantages of Brexit, such as Dyson and Nissan, many more are still adjusting to the challenges to their operations.

Although Brexit’s obstacles to UK firms show no signs of disappearing, learning how to adapt to them is essential to improving resilience and enabling productivity. This means understanding the changes that impact your operations and ensuring your whole workforce is on board. Acting now is also essential to allow your recovery and minimise further disruption.

This blog details what businesses should do if they are still experiencing post-Brexit struggles to continue to operate efficiently and compliantly across all areas.

Understand the impact

The crucial first step of adjusting to life after the EU is understanding the specific impact on you. Different businesses will have felt the ramifications differently, depending on their structure, operations and what they do.

Brexit has affected a variety of factors, and the only way to know which apply to you is to examine your operations against the changes that have occurred. Luckily, the government has a checker tool on their website that easily identifies what you need to do after answering a few questions.

Using this tool, you can see exactly how you may be impacted by post-Brexit regulation and start to put amends in place accordingly. It may also be worth doing further reading or speaking with an advisor to understand better what you need to consider and how to adapt your operations.

While considering the impact, you should also bear in mind any rules that may affect you in the future. For example, if you haven’t been carrying out certain activities since the end of the EU transition period but considering restarting them, it’s worth looking into how you need to do this. Similarly, if you are looking to adopt a new product or service into your business, check whether post-EU regulation will have any consequence on this and ensure you meet the correct procedures.

Know the trade processes

One of the most significant areas that have changed with Brexit is trade. For businesses involved with importing or exporting, there has been much to adapt to, including documentation and VAT.

As exports start to rise, it could indicate that some businesses that had temporarily halted their sales to the EU are now starting up again. If this is the case, it’s essential that you’re fully aware of updated processes and complying with them to avoid delay and disruption.

If you are involved with EU trade, take time to review the requirements and compile a checklist of things to do. You will also need to ensure any relevant staff members are informed. This mainly matters if they will be involved with accounting, filing customs declarations, labelling or any other tasks involved with either sending goods abroad or purchasing them for your business.

As well as reviewing requirements such as documentation, VAT and border checks, you may also need to consider broader implications such as conformity marking and rules of origin. While grace periods currently exist in both of these areas, you still need to start preparing your operations now to ensure full compliance.

If you move goods in and out of Northern Ireland or are an NI business that trades with Great Britain, it is essential to be aware of the varying requirements. Again, grace periods stand here, and there is ongoing discussion between EU and UK leaders, so it’s important to keep on top of updates as they emerge.

Communicate with staff

Once you grasp how Brexit may shape your business, you must communicate any process changes with your workforce. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and working compliantly with guidelines, and informing your staff why the changes are needed. It is particularly integral if new regulations affect tasks related to their job specifications.

You must also update workers if there are any changes to your policies. This is apt if you hire EU citizens in your operations, who may be directly affected by immigration and employment policies. These individuals will need to seek settlement status under the EU Settlement Scheme if they wish to remain in the UK after 30th June 2021. If they do not, it could alter their right to live, work and access healthcare in the UK. So, make sure they are aware of the scheme and its June deadline so they can apply if they wish to. You may also need to adapt your recruitment and HR strategies accordingly.

Futureproof

As we have already mentioned, there are some grace periods still in place. There are varying timeframes for when these end, but it does mean that there are future changes still to come which might affect businesses. With this in mind, it is vital to be aware of any grace periods that might impact you, find out when they end and put adequate preparations in place.

Current grace periods cover immigration, Northern Ireland, trade documentation, border controls, rules of origin and conformity marketing. There are also rulings awaited concerning GDPR. If any of these impact you, you need to keep informed of what you need to introduce or amend in your operations and when. It’s also worth preparing for the potential implications on your business and having contingency plans ready to mitigate any issues.

On top of this, aim to keep up to date with government statements as situations continue to unfold, particularly with the Northern Ireland protocol and GDPR adequacy rulings. This will give you a head start in your preparations once decisions have been made.

Utilise advice and training

There is a lot to reflect on when adapting your operations for Brexit, and it can be hard to comprehend everything that needs to be done. This becomes even more challenging when you need to bring your staff on board with new processes. As such, it is recommended for businesses to take advantage of professional support to help them adjust.

Applications are currently open for the SME Brexit Support Fund. Through this scheme, small businesses (with less than 500 employees and £100 million in turnover) can obtain grants of up to £2,000 from HMRC. These grants can then be used against the expense of professional advice or training related to post-Brexit trade, including customs declarations, VAT and managing customs processes.

Businesses that are successful in receiving a grant can access valuable support for the entire workforce without absorbing additional costs, when many companies are already facing financial obstacles.

The scheme is open until 30th June or earlier if all grant funding is allocated. You can apply online today.

Get advice today

Though we may be months on from Brexit, there are still ramifications that UK firms must deal with. As grace periods end over the coming months, it will become even more vital that businesses adapt their operations accordingly and comply with guidelines.

By understanding the full impact on your business and ensuring you are putting the suitable measures into action, you can smoothly transition to the post-EU landscape. This also means bringing your workforce on the journey, so everyone is aware of what needs to be done.

If you need guidance on how to overcome these Brexit challenges, we can help. Our team of advisors have expertise across many areas, including VAT, trade, employment and strategy. We can discuss the unique issues you are facing and help you identify solutions in line with government requirement.

Our advice can also be funded through the SME Brexit Support Fund.