Post-Brexit immigration policies should allow UK employers to retain access to EU migrant labour, urges report

A new report says that public and private sector performance will suffer unless the United Kingdom government ensure that post-Brexit immigration policies allow employers to retain access to EU migrant labour.

The ability to recruit skilled and unskilled workers from the European Union is “fundamental not just to organizational success but to the survival of many businesses and services,” according to a joint report from the CIPD, the body that represents human resources and people development professionals, and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR).

immigration policies - pixabay-2467281The new report calls for straightforward, flexible and affordable UK immigration policies post-Brexit. Image: pixabay-2467281

Titled Facing the future: tackling post-Brexit labour and skills shortages, the report outlines the challenges that employers in all sectors face in filling vacancies and the part that EU nationals play in the UK workforce.

Following last year’s “Brexit” referendum vote to leave the EU and this year’s general election, it appears that the UK government aims to control the number of EU migrant workers entering the UK as it negotiates terms for exiting the EU.

However, the report warns that ending the free movement of people from the EU will damage UK public and private sectors unless post-Brexit immigration policies reflect the fact that UK employers need to recruit skilled and unskilled labour from the EU.

Employers thinking of moving operations outside UK

The report’s key findings reveal that:

– UK employers recruit EU nationals mainly because there are not enough UK-born applicants to fill low- and semi-skilled jobs
– One in ten (11 percent) of UK firms say that they have recruited fewer EU nationals since the Brexit vote to leave the EU
– One in five employers say that, because of Brexit, they are thinking of moving all or part of their operations outside of the UK or will focus future growth there

The report advises government to consult with employers in developing “an immigration system that is fair, user-friendly and flexible enough to ensure that businesses can access the talent they need.”

It also urges firms to broaden their approach to hiring and developing people so that they do all they can to attract and grow UK-born workers.

Call for ‘straightforward, flexible and affordable’ immigration policies

Peter Cheese, CIPD Chief Executive says that a significant number of employers will face real skills shortages that will hurt their performance unless the government’s post-Brexit immigration policies are “straightforward, flexible and affordable,” as the new report recommends.

“An overly blinkered approach focused on simply cutting immigration to tens of thousands and focusing only on high skilled employees could leave employers high and dry, especially those who rely more on EU migrants to fill low-skilled jobs,” he explains.

Cheese says that their research also discovered that while Brexit will make some employers do more to find workers from within the UK, many who are already building links with schools and providing apprenticeship and training programs say that they are unable to find the skills and people they need.

‘Not enough UK-born applicants’

“Our research adds further weight to evidence that employers don’t recruit EU migrants in preference to British workers, but because they attract too few British applicants,” says Heather Rolfe, NIESR’s Associate Research Director, adding that, “Ideally, many employers would like to recruit more young people but working in a meat factory or a care home is not top of the list for school leavers now, and never has been.”

In compiling the report, the authors drew on 26 in-depth interviews with employers from manufacturing, retail, healthcare, social care, and restaurant sectors. They also took into account the results from a survey of 1,060 employers and six focus groups conducted in the East Midlands, London, Manchester, Scotland, and Wales.

Video – Addressing post-Brexit skills shortages

In the following video, Gerwyn Davies, Public Policy Advisor at CIPD, summarizes the report’s findings.