With the festive period slowly yet surely inching towards us, many of the UK’s largest hospitality and retail firms are once again searching for a fleet of seasonal staff. This temporary army of workers will bolster teams around the nation and see them through what will likely be the most profitable, and busy, point in the year.
And whilst economic instability will undoubtedly have an impact on profitability throughout Christmas ’22, it seems that – at least according to the latest data from Adzuna – seasonal workers have never been more in-demand. The firm’s research found that over 25,000 festive positions are available currently.
Jobs ads may be abundant, yet there simply aren’t currently enough workers to fill them. UK-based searches for seasonal Christmas jobs are down by 27%, when compared to 2019 results, and 33% below 2018.
For some, such as Next boss Lord Wolfson, the absence of willing workers to fill empty roles is only compounding the company’s struggle to build back its already depleted staff base. Somewhat surprisingly, considering Wolfson was a staunch advocate of Brexit, it’s the UK’s exit from the EU that he blames.
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Speaking to the BBC, Wolfson states that the UK's current immigration policy is “crippling economic growth”.
"We have got people queuing up to come to this country to pick crops that are rotting in fields, to work in warehouses that otherwise wouldn't be operable, and we're not letting them in. And we have to take a different approach to economically productive migration," he said.
Discussing a plan for future free trade, he said that the government must decide if it wants to be an "open free trading nation", or whether it wanted to be "fortress Britain".
"I think in respect of immigration, it's definitely not the Brexit that I wanted, or indeed, many people who voted Brexit wanted," Wolfson added.
Did Brexit really cause talent shortages?
Obviously, Brexit is a murky subject, and many contributing factors have impacted what has become a global talent shortage. However, data from McKinsey’s Brexit: The bigger picture report found that the action had indeed affected the UK talent pool.
“Net migration from the European Union to the United Kingdom is at the lowest level since 2013, driven by declining long-term immigration for work. Non-EU migration has risen, but at a slower rate,” the research states.
Wolfson believes in a market-based solution to the current talent crisis affecting healthcare, hospitality and logistics, among others. His suggestion to the government for businesses that require European workers is a tax of 10% on foreign workers’ salaries to ensure that only businesses that ‘really couldn’t find UK workers’ would utilise workers from the EU.
"It would automatically mean that businesses never brought someone into the company from outside if they could find someone in the UK," he said. "But if they genuinely can't, they'll pay the premium,” he said.