‘Brexit Day’: time to get your house in order, employers urged

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With the UK leaving the European Union at 11:00pm this evening, employers are being urged to use the Brexit transition period to its full extent to ensure they are able to retain and attract skilled staff from overseas from 2021.

Although little will change immediately, as the UK will continue to abide by most EU laws and allow the free movement of EU nationals until 30 December, business groups and law firms are using “Brexit Day” to remind organisations to prepare for the UK’s full divorce from the bloc.

Many employers and business representative bodies are concerned that their plans for growth and ability to retain staff will be affected by Brexit.

Manufacturers, in particular, are feeling the strain: 81% said they were having difficulty in recruiting skilled employees largely due to candidates not being available locally (44%) or not being available at all (33%), according to a survey by audit and tax adviser Crowe and the Confederation of British Metalforming.

Johnathan Dudley, partner and head of manufacturing at Crowe, said: “While the skills shortage has impacted the sector over the last few years, it is clear that this has now progressed to become a major threat to growth.

“Limitations both perceived and real, largely driven by the possibility of more restrictive movement post-Brexit, on the one hand will be countered by wider access to non-EU nationals, but this is subject of course to the detailed implementation of proposed ‘point based’ system.”

The government intends to introduce a points-based “Australian-style” immigration system covering both EU and non-EU nationals from 2021, the details of which are yet to be revealed. The Migration Advisory Committee published its recommendations for the future immigration system and minimum salary thresholds for migrant workers to obtain a visa earlier this week.

Rupert Morrison, economist and CEO at people analytics firm Orgvue, said business leaders needed to “get over” their concerns about Brexit and start modelling possible future scenarios and how to prepare for them.

“British businesses need to grow up and quit complaining about Brexit as though it’s breaking news and they haven’t had a chance to prepare,” he said.

“Large companies in the UK are currently investing more in their telecoms services than they are on understanding their business, the work that needs to be done, and the workforce they need to achieve it. It’s no wonder they’re using Brexit as an excuse for growth concerns. But one referendum, two elections, three prime ministers and four years later, businesses are somehow still floundering due to ‘uncertainty’ and skills shortages.”

British businesses need to grow up and quit complaining about Brexit as though it’s breaking news and they haven’t had a chance to prepare,” – Rupert Morrison, Orgvue

However, research by CV-writing firm TopCV found that 15% of the workers it surveyed were planning to leave the UK after Brexit, with the hardest-hit sectors expected to be marketing, media and design (25% of staff); science and education (21%); and engineering and construction (18%).

Amanda Augustine, careers expert at TopCV, said: “Our research reveals incredibly dire implications for Britain’s creative industries. We have some of the brightest minds and most creative agencies in the UK, so for a quarter of that talent to leave would be shocking.

“Hiring and retaining the right staff, even in the steadiest of times, can be tough. Employers will have to identify creative ways to incentivise their employees to remain in the UK – and quickly.”

Gillian McKearney, head of UK immigration at law firm Fieldfisher, said there is an opportunity for employers to drive recruitment from overseas while the transition period is in place. However, firms need to support employees who arrive in the UK before the end of this year with their applications for Settled Status and Pre-Settled Status if they want to continue to live and work in the UK from 2021.

She said: “Brexit is now upon us and heralds a new era for immigration. Over the next few months during this transition period, what will be important for employers, especially those who employee large numbers of EU nationals, is to ensure that they have a process in place to manage the right to work status of their EU national employees.”

McKearney said up to one million EU nationals working in the UK are yet to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. “This is something to take into consideration and business management should take on the responsibility of encouraging and supporting their EU employees to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and tracking those who not wish to.”

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