Hello, and welcome to October
Well we’ve very quickly arrived in the final quarter of the year! For this month, rather than my usual updates and news, I thought it might be a good time to talk about the ‘B’ word. Last month it was the ‘C’ word (Christmas, just to be clear) and now the ‘B’ word… Brexit.
I don’t know about you, but I find it quite easy to bury my head in the sand about it all. It’s probably one of the biggest things to happen to this country in our lifetimes, and it will surely change what lies ahead for future generations. But, because it has been rumbling on for a long time now and it’s very hard to know what’s fact and what’s political propaganda and hype, I've taken the ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach.
I’ve decided that now is the time I need to explore what it all means for my family and my business, so I thought a good angle would be look at what it could all mean for recruitment and our workforce as a country.
Brexit in brief
The scheduled time to officially leave the EU is at 11pm on Friday 29thMarch 2019. However, there is the ‘transition period’ that takes us up to 31st December 2020, before all the new laws, rules and regulations come into force properly – whatever these may be.
EU freedom of movement and it's impact on UK recruitment
Technically, from a business employment point of view, we still have another two years before any changes in the freedom of movement for people across the EU will impact us. However, because it’s people’s lives that are being impacted and there is a genuine fear surrounding whether or not non-UK citizens will be allowed to remain or continue working in the country, we are going to feel the effects long before then as people and families strive to protect themselves.
The Office of National Statics published a labour market survey in August this year showing that there were 28.76 million UK nationals and 2.28 million EU nationals, plus 1.27 million non-EU nationals working in the UK. Meaning that 10% of our UK workforce is made up of non-UK citizens. It’s also worth noting that 3.6 million British citizens were not born in the UK but now have citizenship.
Recruitment is tough at the moment as candidates are scarce and unemployment is at its lowest for decades. If we’re heading into a situation where EU citizens can’t work in the UK or it no longer makes sense for people to move to the UK from elsewhere in the world to work here, recruitment could be about to get even harder.
How will we adapt and how will we protect the 10% of jobs in this country being done by non-UK citizens?
How the Chequers Plan might affect UK jobs
Theresa May has put forward a ‘mobility framework’ as part of the Chequers Plan. It would still allow movement around the UK and EU, for work and studying. But the Chequers Plan has not been passed, so the details could well change. But, Theresa May has confirmed that if EU nationals are living in the UK ahead of Brexit, they will gain ‘settled status’.
Tighter restrictions on movement and entry to the UK may result in a continuation of the current state of play for well-paid skilled workers, but it could further compound the issues for business needing non-skilled workers.
I saw a documentary recently that was about the issues of recruiting UK citizens into non-skilled roles. There just wasn’t the number of willing people to match business needs for roles like warehouse workers, hospital porters, kitchen staff, trainees etc. Currently many of these roles are filled by EU nationals. If this potential workforce is no longer available, what is the government going to do to help encourage UK citizens into these types of jobs?
Minimising the negative effects of Brexit on the UK employment market
The rise in apprenticeship uptake levels off the back of the Government Apprenticeship Levy Scheme, could help here with the transition for young people from education into work. But again, it’s more aimed at skilled jobs.
We’ll possibly adopt a system similar to Australia, and we’ll allow workers into the country where we have gaps in employment. But will it be enough to attract the types of workers we need as a country?
Everything is still very much in the balance and the bottom line is that we don’t know what Brexit means for us yet. I think the best thing we can all do right now, is to keep calm and carry on for the sakes of our businesses and our employees.
I do believe that whatever happens, we will weather the storm and come out the other side stronger. Because that’s what we do as a nation.
Have a great October and I’ll be back in touch in November with some of my more usual news and updates.