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Brexit Job Losses: Who should be the ones to go?
With still no firm deal on the table, the final impact of Brexit on the British economy remains unclear. To date the initial predications of large scale job losses have not yet materialised. However, key sectors remain concerned that a no-deal exit from Europe may still lead to companies needing to lay staff off in the wake of lost business.

Key sectors fear job losses

Earlier this year 1 in 5 manufacturing companies were warning of having to lay staff off as a direct result of the vote to leave the EU.  The finance sector advised of losses in the region of 5000, as jobs are relocated abroad.  Retail has already been hit with losses in the region of 65,000 since the vote, which has been compounded by on-line competition and Brexit related wage pressures.

The property market has also been hit, with developers putting projects on hold due to concerns over the supply of labour and materials.  The car industry, which employs over 850,000 people in the UK and accounts for 12% of total UK exports of goods, has also voiced concerns.  Both the ability to recruit sufficient staff and to continue to export to Europe without unnecessary trade barriers will be key to the sector’s future.

Overall, businesses are putting expansion and investment on hold until there is greater certainty of what a post Brexit future will bring. 


Difficult redundancy decisions

So, if businesses do have to lay staff off as a result of the decision to leave the EU how will they decide who will go?

Under normal circumstances a business needing to make redundancies will make their selection based on a range of criteria.  This would usually include factors such as absence levels, disciplinary record, performance, skills and qualifications.

However, where the reason for job losses is solely as a result of the decision to leave the EU, where do organisations stand in taking an employee’s vote in the Brexit referendum into account?

If companies have to lay staff off as a direct result of Brexit are they justified in taking this approach if they feel the whole situation would otherwise have been avoidable?


Bosses’ reactions to job losses

From a strictly legal perspective, using political opinions as a basis for dismissal is not automatically deemed unfair, unlike any decisions based on religious beliefs.   However, it’s highly likely that an Employment Tribunal would still find that it was in fact an unfair decision.  Therefore, given that 52% of those who voted in the referendum supported the leave campaign, the chances of this being accepted in court as a reasonable selection criteria are low.

However, given the level of debate and disagreement that the whole Brexit vote has caused, bosses and workers are likely to be well aware of how their colleagues voted.  Therefore the pressure may be on for bosses to take account of this factor when deciding who should stay and who should go.  This is likely to be more widespread in small companies where the situation may feel more personal.  Bosses who find their businesses at risk as a result of Brexit are most likely to feel strongly in relation to those who supported the leave vote.


A high risk strategy?

In reality it would be a high risk strategy for companies to take their employees’ views on Brexit into account if they need to lay staff off.  But how do those staff who voted remain feel about the situation, particularly if their own jobs are now at risk?  One thing is for certain, businesses should be prepared for some strong opinions from their staff on the subject in the coming months.


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