Written by Renaud Clarke

Brexit and the challenges it will bring the recruitment industry

As Britain continues the process of leaving the EU either with or without a deal, how will the eventual outcome impact on recruitment? A 2018 LinkedIn survey found that 96% of recruitment strategies had already been impacted by Brexit with 39% of recruiters finding that international candidates are increasingly reluctant to move to the UK. Will there be skills shortages or is there a silver lining in prospect when it comes to training and talent?

The current picture

With the UK highly likely to diverge from the EU’s defining principle of free movement of people, the availability of talent from the EU has already been impacted. There are already 35% fewer candidates from France and Germany and 29% fewer from the Netherlands and that picture is unlikely to change with the current uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Domestically, the picture is healthier, with recruitment back to pre-referendum rates and largely stable. It remains to be seen what long term impact the post-Brexit climate will have on international recruitment whether that’s changes in recruitment strategies to comply with modifications to immigration law or potential reputational damage to the UK as an open and accessible destination for foreign talent.

Where next for employee’s rights?

Another challenge facing the recruitment industry is the uncertain picture surrounding employees’ rights in the UK post-Brexit. While existing EU legislation on worker’s rights is due to be written into English law, there has been a push back from the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is seeking a ‘best in class’ free trade agreement which would allow the UK to diverge from EU standards on employee protections.

It remains to be seen whether popular directives on sick pay, paid leave, working hours and maternity leave will be affected by Brexit and what impact that has on attracting workers into the post-Brexit recruitment market.

Potential skills shortages

With 44% of recruiters believing that Brexit has made the UK a less attractive destination for EU talent, the effects of Brexit could be exacerbated further by pre-existing skills shortages across critical sectors including engineering and aviation. With demand for skilled labour predicted to outstrip demand in aviation by 2027, this is one of the most pressing challenges facing UK recruiters as they navigate the UK’s exit from the EU.

As employers face increasing difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff, there’s a concomitant rise in hard to fill vacancies which rocketed to 70% by Q3 2018. Three-fifths of organisations surveyed have already seen a significant increase in the recruitment of senior and skilled employees.

Mitigating the effects of Brexit

While Brexit has had an undeniable impact on the recruitment industry, there are several strategies that can help organisations to beat the challenges:

– Prioritising the British workforce: while membership of the EU has allowed businesses to expand aggressively thanks to the enlarged pool of skilled and unskilled labour, one of the key arguments of the Leave campaign focused on the lack of similarly skilled British workers. In fact, almost 50% of companies have pledged to increase training opportunities for UK workers as a result of the referendum vote.

– Retain existing talent: A proactive response to new immigration legislation can protect eligibility and ensure that valued EU workers attain settled status and have the right paperwork.

– Maintain the quality of the candidate pool: business leaders may now need to turn their attention to the wider talent pool beyond the EU. A focus on more inclusive recruitment with non-financial benefits including flexible working and career development can create an attractive organisational offer that attracts the best talent from around the globe.

Is there cause for optimism?

The UK may be seen as a less attractive place to work than it once was, but there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the bigger picture. 71% of talent professionals told LinkedIn that they were highly confident about continuing to recruit the right talent, while London-based agencies have seen a 45% uptick in vacancies and a rise of 32% in suitable candidates. And although the overall outlook is far from settled, the recruitment industry is resilient enough to survive whatever Brexit the UK finally decides on.

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