How will Brexit change the face of the UK charity workforce?

July 19, 2018 Alyson Pepperill
How will Brexit change the face of the UK charity workforce?

Brexit remains a major disruptor within the charity sector and beyond, with potentially far reaching impacts. Changes to currency and the weak pound could be significant to certain organisations, as could the effect on EU grants, legislation and European supply chains.

There are so many potential risks that organisations need to consider, assess and begin to plan for, but one of the major issues for charities may be the impact on the workforce.

As it stands, any EU national can volunteer in the UK. However, with the number of EU nationals working in UK charities having more than doubled since 2000, charities could – according to new research outlined below– face a skills shortage if they are unable to access workers. How real is this threat and what can organisations do to prepare in the meantime?

The recent report from the Institute of Public Policy, commissioned by Charity Finance Group, revealed that if the same rules applied to EU nationals working in the charity sector were applied to non-EU workers, over 80 percent would be ineligible to work in the UK.

The research questioned 100 charity representatives and also found that over half thought it would become more difficult to recruit for hard to fill vacancies at the end of freedom of movement. Worryingly, the report also found that almost two thirds (62%) of the charities questioned had no experience of the recruiting system for non-EU nationals.

Report recommendations
Following its findings, the IPP recommend that government provides a swift guarantee of free movement rights for current EU nationals, and a light-touch system for providing documentation to limit the implications for UK charities.

It also recommends the creation of a system with the EU which would enable people to continue to come to the UK but giving the UK the right to introduce controls when needed that will support local workers.

Planning for the unknown – what you can do now
Although the terms of the Brexit deal remain very unclear, now is the time to take steps to identify and assess the risks as they affect your organisation. This will help you to be in an informed position to limit and overcome the disruption once government policy has been set and agreed by the EU.

So how can you get started?

1. Identifying risks

Ensure you have the right people involved at an early stage to identify the risks and opportunities of Brexit. Then identify the long and short-term impact of those risks and explore how you might be affected directly and indirectly.

A good starting point may be to identify how much of your volunteer workforce is comprised of EU nationals and work through the different scenarios facing that workforce. Could your number of fundraisers be halved? How long would it take to train up new people? What would that do to your fundraising efforts?

2. Options

Now’s the time to make strategic choices by looking at the options available to you. You could undertake ‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis’ and ‘Political, Economic, Social and Technological (PEST) analysis’ across the different scenarios you’ve identified. You may want to question whether you have the correct strategy or structures and skills and competencies in place to deal with those risks and stay on track. For example, does your current recruitment strategy need adjusting? Do you have correct resources in place to manage this?

3. Response

Once you have a plan, then be ready to or start implementing it or pulling the resources together in preparation. For example, if investment in HR is required – through training or new staff – you may need to consider ring-fencing funds to make this possible? Consider factors, such as how will change be managed in terms of communication (internally and externally)? Importantly, ensure your organisation constantly monitors the risks and how they change, as well as evaluating any changes against the plans you have in place.

In summary, what this latest report from the IPP reinforces is that change is coming. Just because we don’t know the exact outcome of Brexit, doesn’t mean that we can’t take action now to prepare. Your charity needs to ensure it is forward thinking and flexible enough to respond to any scenarios or disruptors as soon as they hit.