Brexit proposals expected to cause hiring headache

Brexit proposals expected to cause hiring headache

With Donald Trump’s visit to the UK at the forefront of politics news, conflict in Theresa May’s party, regards the direction of Brexit, has taken a backseat – at least for a short while.

However, despite the Government's recent offering of a new Brexit blueprint – in the form of a whitepaper - businesses across the UK are eager for more clarity on how it could affect their staffing. 

With the talent shortage and questions over movement of people sparking concern across the labour market, the whitepaper does little to allay hiring fears. Primarily because it states that free movement will end.

However, it did outline that the UK would seek arrangements “that would allow UK nationals to visit the EU without a visa for short-term business reasons and equivalent arrangements for EU citizens coming to the UK.” Business transfers allowing UK and EU-Based companies to deploy expertise where it’s needed, will also be agreed.

It added it is yet to discuss how to facilitate temporary mobility of “scientists and researchers, self-employed professionals, employees providing services, as well as investors,” whilst relaying its focus to attract the “best and brightest” from the EU.

The Recruitment & Confederation’s (REC) Chief Executive, Neil Carberry has said the plans, whilst welcome, remain ambiguous.

“Recruiters have been clear that Britain needs a comprehensive mobility deal with the EU to support national prosperity. The White Paper suggests this may be possible, but it leaves too many questions unanswered,” he said.

“Access to the UK for EU workers after the transition period should be based on coming to make a contribution, not a numerical target. Those with a job should be able to work here, plugging labour shortages as record numbers of people are in employment.

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“We want to see eligibility to work attached to individuals rather than through sponsorship with an employer – so people are not tied to a single employer one they are here.”

Director of Policy & Professional Services at the REC, Tom Hadley, recently spoke to HR Grapevine about the dangers of only hiring ‘brightest and best’ EU workers.

He explains: “From our data and conversations with our members, we will suffer hugely if we don’t focus on bringing in a range of workers, not necessarily just those that are highly-skilled.

“There’s always a need for a supply of good, temporary workers and it’s important to maintain access to that.”

Jackie Penlington, Senior Associate at law firm Stevens & Bolton, echoed these concerns: “Worryingly for employers, there’s no detail or even mention of lower-skilled EEA workers. Once the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, many employers are likely to face a recruitment headache to fill lower skilled roles, particularly in some sectors such as agriculture and hospitality.”

To exacerbate concerns, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that net long-term migration to the UK from the EU last year was at its lowest level in five years.

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However, Tara Sinclair, Economist at global job site, Indeed, is optimistic that ‘Brexodus’ remains a threat rather than a reality. “While net migration from the EU is slowing, the millions of EU citizens living and working in the UK are not yet rushing for the exit.”

She points at increased immigration from other parts of the world, and figures showing that last year there was a 13% increase in the number of immigrants coming to the UK to take up a job offer.

However, she did iterate that the figures “drive home the importance of foreign workers to the UK’s strained labour market and will be particularly welcome in the regions most exposed to the danger of ‘Brexodus’.”

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