Since the summer of 2016 when the news of a ‘Leave’ decision broke, there has been major pressure on UK recruitment. Not only has there been a strong labour demand and reduced unemployment, but most notably there was a 95% fall in EU nationals joining the UK workforce between Q1 2016 and Q1 2018 (CIPD 2019). CIPD data notes that 44% of employers experienced more challenge in recruitment during 2018, as another 34% faced a more difficulty in retention.
The question has been rife as to whether EU citizens will be allowed to stay in the UK, and this may be a critical question for your business in terms of retaining existing staff in key roles, as well as in your broader workforce planning, talent mapping and succession planning. And the answer isn’t clean cut.
Caroline Nokes, Immigration minister announced in June that there would be a simple system for EU citizens living the UK in excess of 5 years to apply for ‘settled status’. This should meant that these EU citizens can continue to live and work in the UK. Those who have not lived in the UK for 5 years will be entitled to apply for ‘pre-settled status’, which will enable them to remain until they reach 5 years residency and apply for full status. However, this plan is contingent on negotiators reaching a good deal with Brussels. In the event of a no deal scenario there will be a huge amount of uncertainly for EU citizens and their employers, and the most immediate impact of this will be retention – so identifying these employees experiencing uncertainty and engaging with them now is critical for employers seeking to manage this risk.
Supply in the job market
Two critical breakthroughs have helped concerns around supply of skilled workers from abroad. The removal of non-EU doctors from the Tier 2 visa cap and the promise of mutual recognition for professional qualifications the UK and EU countries are certainly positive, but many are calling for more radical changes. Also there are major concerns about the unskilled labour market – manufacturing, agriculture and hospitality in particular, especially in light of falling applications for vacancies in these markets in 2017. Indeed, 30-50% of London’s construction workforce are from the EU, and their skills fall outside of the Tier 2 decisions covered above, which is leading to calls for a Tier 3 visa for short term work permits for unskilled migrants.
Beyond all this policy, we are reminded that potentially for many people you employ this is not just an employment issue, but a real family issue and we must make sure those employees are supported as best they can be. Regular updates can help them feel reassured that as an employer you are thinking about the issues and have their best interests at heart. Reassuring your staff presents a good opportunity to increase engagement and motivate of your employees.