Brexit – A South Wales HR Forum Event


Last Thursday evening, the South Wales HR Forum hosted a fascinating discussion on Brexit and how it might impact the workplace in Wales. Our guest speaker was Paul Matthews, Chief Executive of Monmouthshire County Council. I know my readers like following authentic social leaders so you can follow Paul on Twitter by clicking here.

The South Wales HR Forum is a new network of HR professionals in South Wales with the aim of being a voice for the HR community across the region and with an objective of raising the profile of the workplace people agenda in the country.

Prior to this discussion we hosted our first ever event which was in April of this year where we talked about the future of HR, however this Brexit event was the first that had been arranged following the appointment of our Board members and so it felt a lot more special. You can read more on our board by clicking here.

We felt it was important to host an event on Brexit not just because it’s obviously topical, but because members of the HR community have reported some significant concerns since the referendum in June.

I opened the proceedings by explaining that individual attendees personal politics did not matter, and that this discussion was focussing on how the UK leaving the EU could potentially impact the workplace in Wales. I explained that whilst it appears no one can really say with any confidence whether we were heading for catastrophe or about to embark upon a brave new world, we were going to discuss what has happened so far, and speculate on what the future might hold.

To start things off, Victoria Hall, SWHRF board member and Head of Employment at NewLaw Solicitors gave an employment legal update discussing Brexit, modern slavery, gender pay gap and make up of holiday pay. However, this was an update with a difference. Victoria passionately discussed the impact of #modernslavery and encouraged attendees not just to comply with the law because it was the law, but because it was the right thing to do. At this event, we were supporting Cardiff Foodbank, and NewLaw solicitors have very kindly donated food in line with the number of Social Media interactions we had on the night.

Following Victoria was Paul Matthews. Paul opened by explaining that much of the discussion around Brexit has been largely inaccurate and noise. In a fascinating 40 or so minutes, Paul discussed how Monmouthshire Council employees responded to the referendum result and that first and foremost, people simply wanted and needed to talk about it. Paul explained how children in schools had lots of questions and so Paul had a team of people visiting the schools in his county, trying to help give some answers.

Paul explained how his approach since the result hasn’t altered, that the result is what it is and that this is a challenge that will need to be responded to, with Paul having nothing but confidence in his employees to be able to do that. Paul explained his love for the county of Monmouthshire and the people within the area which gave him great confidence.

An interesting point that has stuck with me since Paul’s talk is that he believes that how we tackle Brexit will be as much about our attitude towards it as anything else. I’m sure that’ll be controversial to some, but not for me. My personal view has always been, it’s not what I voted for, but it’s happening and so i’ll remain positive despite the odds.

When discussing leadership following the Brexit referendum Paul stated that “authenticity is everything” and that people wanted to see real leaders being honest and giving support as well as guidance. People needed confidence and a level-head from those giving direction.

In terms of HR, it was Paul’s view that the HR profession will have a key role in supporting the narrative that workplaces adopt regarding Brexit and encouraged attendees to start thinking about this if they aren’t already. Paul stated that HR are resilient and flexible and will again need to demonstrate these attributes as the workplace will need HR support with what might be coming next.

Following Paul’s discussion, I asked attendees in the room to talk to each other for a few minutes and identify 1 major positive that HR can create from Brexit. A fantastic dialogue took place between participants and when we asked attendees to feed back, lots of great points were raised. The below outlines some of the points mentioned. What was crystal clear, was nothing felt insurmountable.


We closed the session with a Q&A for both Paul and Damien Burns (Senior Solicitor at NewLaw Solicitors). A mixture of questions were raised but what fascinated me was how the final point made included how an organisations values matter now more than ever.

It was a great event, I know that I really enjoyed it and learned so much from it.

Personally, I would like to thank Paul Matthews for inspiring and informing our forum, Damien Burns and Victoria Hall of NewLaw Solicitors for answering a range of legal questions raised and the rest of my fantastic Board members for all of their hard work.

More information on the South Wales HR Forum, including dates of future events when released, can be found on our website You can also follow us on Twitter @SWalesHRForum and you can also follow our individual Board Members;-

Myself – @MarkSWHRF

Victoria Hall – @VictoriaCJHall

Mark Stevenson – @DyfedS

Martyn Bull – @MartynCBull

Paul Harris – @PaulPennaWales