In response to the United Kingdom’s vote on 23 June to leave the European Union, we have heard that for most businesses, change will not be immediate, but we all face some uncertainty in the medium term. We know that this decision will please some businesses, however, care businesses are likely to be affected by fluctuating levels of confidence, investment, recruitment, growth and also migration. There needs to be a detailed plan to support the economy and to avert a prolonged period of uncertainty.
On Monday, Chief Executive of Hertfordshire County Council said “Following the vote to leave the European Union on Thursday, I just wanted to reassure you that it is business as usual at the council. While it is far too early to say what the impact of Brexit will be on the public sector long term, including any grant funding we get from Europe, I am confident that our current funding arrangements will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
“I also appreciate that some of our staff are European nationals or have partners who are. With that in mind, I thought it was worth sharing the Prime Minister’s words from Friday morning when he said: ‘I would reassure Brits living in European countries, and European citizens living here, that there will be no immediate changes in your circumstances.’ We will be keeping a close eye on what emerges over the next few months and I will of course keep you informed.”
With all of this in mind, what are the potential implications for health and social care? Following the results on Friday morning, the following possible outcomes have been circulated within the national press:
EU migrants fill an estimated 6% of jobs in the social care sector in England. That amounts to around 80,000 people. There are fears a Brexit will cause a “care staffing crisis” by reducing supply of workers willing to take on jobs that are often low-paid. There are also worries leaving the EU could make it easier to weaken employment rights set out by the EU, such as the Working Time Directive.
Much will depend on the terms of Britain’s exit. Norway, for example, is not an EU member but has an arrangement that keeps Fully Funded movement of people with EU member states. What are the chances of Britain seeking a similar deal? All we know is Brexiteers made curbing immigration a key part of their campaign. Following yesterday’s vote, the legal position in the UK has not immediately changed. Laws which stem from the European Union, including human rights law and significant parts of employment legislation, will remain in force, unless the UK Government makes alternative provision. The ability of the social care sector to recruit and retain an effective workforce is of particular concern. The contribution of every care worker matters and the ability for employers to recruit non-British EU citizens as part of the social care workforce, will be particularly important for many homecare providers. It is an issue over which HCPA will be fully engaged with its partners in the coming months. If you have news or questions that you would like to share with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We asked our Service Provider, Peter Sherriden from Peninsula Business Services Limited, to give us his Top Five Considerations after the Leave Vote:
- The exit from the EU is not likely to take place until 2018 – there is likely to be a 2 year period during which the departing nation will negotiate the exact terms of the exit with the EU. Until then, it is business as usual;
- The Leave vote does not mean that any of your employees from the EU are no longer able to work for you. EU nationals already in the UK have unlimited leave to live and work in the UK and this was not changed by the Leave vote. The exact position of their ability to remain after the exit is not yet known but it is likely that the law will only change for anyone wanting to enter the UK after the exit;
- Keep an extra eye out for any ‘banter’ taking place between your EU workers and your UK workers. Colleagues may be happy to enter into tame jokes about what the Leave vote may mean for foreign workers but it is not often known when an individual’s tolerance runs out until it is too late. Banter can often be seen as bullying and bullying someone because of their nationality can be seen as harassment, which is an unlawful act under the Equality Act 2010.
- If and when employment laws change, it may not be possible to impose the changes directly on to your current employees. Some legal minimum entitlements may have been incorporated into individual contracts of employment and it is generally unlawful to amend terms and conditions of existing employees without their agreement. New employees, however, can be recruited on new, less advantageous terms set out by any new laws.
- As aggravating as it may seem, employers need to sit tight and wait and see what happens with employment law after the exit – it is impossible to predict what will happen, particularly with a new Prime Minister in charge. Some employment laws will not be affected by the EU exit e.g. National Minimum Wage, and importantly, unfair dismissal. This means that disciplinary procedures are not affected.
Social Care Funding
The economy was a key feature of the EU referendum debate. In the wake of the Brexit vote the pound’s value plummeted. During the campaign, chancellor George Osborne said he would have to slash public spending and put up taxes in order to plug a £30bn “black hole” if the UK voted to leave. Speaking alongside his predecessor Alistair Darling, Osborne said £15bn would have to come from cuts. Spending on local government could be reduced by 5% and the ring-fenced NHS budget cut, the pair warned. The UK would not be able to “afford the size of the public services that we have at the moment” outside the European Union and would have to “cut its cloth” accordingly, Osborne said at the time. Tory MPs in the leave campaign dismissed the warnings saying they “cannot possibly allow” cuts to services that their party promised to protect in the 2015 manifesto. Now that the country has voted, the assertions of both camps will be put to the test. More cuts to council funding would place further strain on an under-pressure social care sector.
Protection of Human Rights
The European convention on human rights, enshrined in law in this country in the Human Rights Act, plays a vital part in social care. The EU and the UK have also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which guarantees equality of rights of disabled people on issues such as health, education and independent living. How will this be impacted by the Brexit vote? Here’s a statement from Fiona McGhie, a public law expert at law firm Irwin Mitchell: “Membership of the EU offers a large degree of protection for people with disabilities because of its directives on equality. However, if that protection was removed by a vote to leave the EU, people with disabilities would still benefit from the CRPD and the ECHR. “It is unlikely that Equality Act would be repealed should the UK leave the EU, as we would still need to comply with the other international conventions which we have ratified. However, people with disabilities would not benefit from any further directives or regulations that the EU issued on disability rights and would be reliant on domestic legislation and common law keeping pace with the advancement of the rights of people with disabilities. What Brexit would affect is the ability to potentially rely on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR) which in particular includes many wider social and economic rights, such as the rights to fair and just working conditions, to healthcare and to have personal data protected. If disabled people wished to try and strike down UK legislation as incompatible with rights under CFR under EU law – that avenue may not be available after the vote to leave.”
We will be inviting responses from our members across Hertfordshire and we will be reassuring them that HCPA will be working hard on their behalf. Together with the Local Authority, the CQC and the NHS, we will maintain our high levels of support and guidance.
For further assistance with regards to how the Brexit may affect your business, please contact us on email@example.com or 01707536020