The importance of the relationship between Ireland and the UK in terms of the closeness of our labour markets and free movement of people has never been more prominent as we countdown to Brexit.

Brexit will have a considerable impact on our relationship with the UK and will pose many challenges. According to the 2019 CIPD HR Practices survey of over 500 HR professionals, the biggest Brexit concerns relate to an increasing cost base, the free movement of workers between Ireland and the UK/Northern Ireland, and the transfer of personal data outside of EU.

Our CIPD survey also found that more than four in five respondents fact skills shortages. The sector sectors with significant skills shortages include IT, customer service, other information services and financial services. The parts of the business with the highest level of skills shortages are operations/front line and IT staff, skills that are central to growing our productivity and exporting capability. 

HR Leadership

So how can HR in Ireland show leadership at this critical juncture to ensure that organisations are ready to take on the challenges as the UK prepares the leave the EU? Regardless of whether you are a large or small organisation, use the CIPD Ireland checklist below to confirm you are taking the necessary actions and to assess your progress.

In this time of uncertainty, HR plays a critical role in ensuring that organisations are developing ways to address the challenges and create working environments that are agile and thrive in the face of disruption. We, encourage the profession to have a strong voice on Brexit and be proactive in supporting people through uncertainty, navigating a way forward for the organisation, and understanding the impact on people.


  • Establish a Brexit Group, with HR centre stage, to understand and mitigate the risks and maximise opportunities. Set clear responsibilities and ways of working.
  • Understand how changes to the common trade and travel area between the UK and Ireland will impact your organisation and your workforce. This includes employees and goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic every day and vice versa, as well as those who visit or service UK offices or markets. Due to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Common Travel Area, the potential impact on travel by Irish and UK citizens will be different from other nationalities, so knowing your workforce profile will be critical.
  • Identify ways to mitigate market risks and maximise any opportunities identified. Invest in a culture of innovation and resilience so that the capability to bring new products and services to market in a volatile environment is strengthened. Put a special focus on innovation around products /services at risk of a high WTO tariff.
  • Build out a number of likely scenarios and create high level action plans to deal with them.
  • Engage in a strategic workforce planning exercise to consider the short-term and longer-term skill needs of the company. Identify the capability building strategy for the future, and design a number of paths to provide continued access to skills and talent to sustain and grow the organisation.
  • Carry out an exchange rate risk assessment, look at its potential impact for payroll, and build a strategy to provide some protection against fluctuations.
  • Carry out a data protection assessment to understand the risks associated with any personal or employee data or systems which may be based in the UK. The status of the UK under GDPR remains unclear.


  • Building a sustainable organisation where employees have a voice, are well managed and deliver good work should always be a focus, and Brexit may provide a change opportunity to put that on a more sustainable footing.
  • Visible and responsible leadership is especially important in times of uncertainty. Ensure all leaders and managers are well trained and communications process are in place so that all teams are informed and on message.
  • Provide a supportive environment so employees can raise issues and suggestions and get development opportunities.
  • Communicate regularly with employees about Brexit and allay concerns where possible. Continue to create an open inclusive workplace that is fit for the future and show you welcome diversity.


  • Conduct a detailed workforce risk analysis to identify employees/teams that may be directly affected by Brexit. Understand the full range of ways that employees may be impacted including work, visas, pensions, travel, family, etc.
  • Identify migration concerns and opportunities. Build your human capital reporting to provide insights from operational data such as absence and engagement along with strategic insights that relate key workforce metrics to business strategy. (See
  • Identify how additional export marketing capability can be resourced to be in a position to reduce UK market dependence and take advantage of alternative export opportunities.
  • Establish a process to evaluate the retention risks inherent in your talent pool, should organisations competing for the same skills be attracted to set up in Ireland. Take advantage of Ireland's growth and EU membership to attract different pools of candidates.
  • Examine ways to enhance the employee proposition through reviewing flexible working, access to development opportunities, reassessment of your reward and benefits strategy, and the ease of access/equity across the workforce profile.
  • Analyse how Brexit will impact your talent pipeline in the short, medium and long term. What are your key sources of talent, what is your reliance on Britain and Northern Ireland, and how may Brexit impact?
  • Widen your recruitment channels and identify what additional sources of talent may emerge or you may need to develop.
  • Ensure your knowledge of current Irish immigration and employment permits regulations is up-to-date, especially for those coming from outside the EU.
  • Watch out for any changes to UK and Northern Ireland employment legislation that may impact on any employees that are based there. While there may be a common platform of employment rights and European legislation at the date of exit, soon after this, this may follow a separate path.

Practical guidance

Keep informed about employment law and a wide range of current HR, L&D and OD topics with our updates, factsheets and guides

Read more