Article 50 and It’s Effect on the Recruitment Industry
The Brexit juggernaut is moving towards what appears to be an inexorable conclusion: the United Kingdom is soon to become the first member state to leave the European Union. The outstanding question on everyone’s lips now relates to the terms of the exit. While much depends upon the skill – and availability – of the negotiating teams on both sides of the table, the government’s attitude is hardening. A “hard” Brexit looks to be on the cards.
The challenges that any Brexit pose to business and industry are causing concern. Recruitment companies, expected to provide the talent from which businesses select new staff, are aware they are on the coal face. No matter how prestigious the business or how attractive the package offered, recruitment in Southampton and nationwide will get harder.
Brexit and Recruitment
Many businesses rely on EU staff. Some, including well-known coffee chains, recruit from elsewhere in the EU after finding it difficult to attract sufficient staff from within the UK. Others, including many in the financial services sector, are simply used to being able to recruit the best person for the job, regardless of nationality.
Coffee chains and the like are already moving towards sourcing new workers from within the UK. There is a growing acceptance of a need to target school leavers and students to plug vacancies traditionally filled by EU migrant labour.
However, businesses in need of more specialised workers will not be able to rely on sixth formers and very young adults. Indeed, they may need access to precisely the same pool of potential applicants that they currently select from. Recruitment companies in Southampton and elsewhere are already starting to explore the potential outcomes.
As the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU are not yet agreed, it is not possible to say with certainty how the recruitment sector will be affected. It is, however, possible to explore particular scenarios.
EU workers already employed in the UK, or who were employed at the time that Article 50 was signed, may be allowed to remain in the UK in their existing employment. For them, and their employers, nothing may change – at least for as long as they stay with the same company or business.
Freedom of movement of workers is a central tenet of the EU. It is also one of the hardest-fought issues in Brexit. It is not implausible that EU citizens could be put on exactly the same footing as citizens of countries from beyond the EU. Currently, this is a points-based immigration system under which a foreign citizen is only eligible for a UK work permit if they fulfil certain criteria. Moreover, the permit allows the holder to work only in a specific role in a specific business. Only if the UK negotiates an EEA agreement similar to Norway’s (which currently seems unlikely) will EU citizens not require a work permit to take up employment in the UK. And if work permits are to be the way forward, recruitment companies and businesses alike must be prepared to get up to speed on them.