Businesses are likely to welcome the news that the UK and EU have agreed terms for the Brexit transition period, a year and-a-half since 2016’s historic Brexit referendum, when a turnout of 72% saw 52% of UK voters choose to leave the European Union.
That was the day a somewhat surprised UK found itself in the choppy, uncharted waters of Brexit.
For UK employers and recruiters, speculation about the potential impact of leaving the EU continues to whip up waves of concern and doubt. And, with new immigration and employment regulation unlikely to be in place until 2019, Brexit’s many ‘unknowns’ make for stormy weather.
Today, Mr Barnier said there was an agreement on the rights of 4.5m EU citizens in the UK and the 1.2m UK citizens in the EU after Brexit, including giving EU citizens arriving in the UK during the transition the same rights and guarantees as those who arrive before Brexit. But exactly how decisions on employing EU workers will be made remains unclear: New systems are likely to assess the contribution made by EU nationals in the UK against a number of, as yet unknown, criteria.
All this is assuming EU nationals will actually want to work here. With growing economic uncertainty, the devaluation of sterling, a surge in xenophobic and anti-immigrant incidents, and doubt around employment and residency laws, Brexit UK is becoming increasingly uninviting as a live/work destination. In the year following the referendum vote, the number of EU citizens emigrating from Britain had increased by a third to 122,000. In addition, the number of people arriving from the EU to live in Britain long-term was down by 81,000 on the previous year.
Amid Brexit’s stormy waters, here are five buoys recruiters and employers can cling to:
1. Increase in short term contracts: Until Brexit’s employment strategy is finalised in 2019, uncertainty may reduce commitment among employers and employees, resulting in more temporary and short-term contracts.
What recruiters can do: Help clients fill temporary posts until certainty on Brexit is reached.
2. Lack of skilled labour: Skills and talent shortages are worsening across the economy, but sectors that are highly dependent on EU nationals, such as hospitality, agriculture, social care and education sectors are already really struggling to recruit.
What recruiters can do: Know which sectors are struggling to fill jobs and actively target candidates in these, becoming the ‘go to’ recruiter for both clients and candidates. Be clued up about new criteria for UK employment, so you can help your EU candidates meet those criteria.
3. The value of UK skills will rise: Brexit is likely to expose the UK’s shortage of home grown skills and talent. This could, potentially, stimulate increased government investment in UK skills development. In the meantime, however, certain skills could become more valuable and sought after.
What recruiters can do: Approach school/college/university leavers and court the UK’s limited supply of skilled/qualified candidates. Take advantage of the apprenticeship levy for funded apprenticeship schemes and encourage all your candidates to up-skill.
4. Employment laws could be tweaked: Some aspects of the UK’s employment laws (e.g. equal pay, unfair dismissal, maternity rights, statutory redundancy pay etc) may be reviewed.
What recruiters can do: Use your REC or APSCo memberships and industry media to keep abreast of changes to employment policy and inform clients and candidates how these could affect them.
5. There may be more xenophobic incidents: Sadly, police figures show that in the 11 months following the EU referendum, race hate incidents surged by an average of 23% across the UK. Many feel that this is echoed in (and, to an extent fuelled by) some sections of the media. This hostility is likely to deter EU nationals and non-EU migrant workers, contributing to a damaging loss of workplace diversity.
What recruiters can do: Ensure you and your clients continue to promote and prioritise equal opportunities, as workplace diversity is a definite strength.
The UK has just embarked on its Brexit voyage, and even the most qualified commentators are only able to discuss it speculatively: What if, maybe and perhaps. So, until the waters clear, here’s our advice:
What if you can make the recruitment process as straightforward as possible for EU nationals and other migrant workers?
Maybe you can cultivate, synthesise and share expertise, establishing yourself as an industry expert for your candidates and clients.
Perhaps you could target UK and EU candidates in sectors with skills gaps, providing information, advice and training that helps nurture UK talent.