The UK’s immigration policy post-Brexit must take account of the ongoing need for EU workers to fill certain roles, a new report has claimed.
Certain Sectors Rely on EU Workers
The report, from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), says that there aren’t enough UK nationals willing and able to fill the low-skill roles currently done by EU nationals, and changing recruitment strategies and automation won’t be able to compensate for this.
It highlights that although EU nationals make up 7% of the overall UK labour market, they account for as much as 15% of workers in low-skilled roles (elementary occupations). EU nationals are also concentrated in certain sectors, with 33% in food manufacturing, 18% in warehousing and logistics and 14% in hospitality.
Employers are concerned that it will not be possible to replace EU workers with British substitutes. There is already record high employment in the UK, and some British jobseekers will be overqualified to perform low-skill roles, while others will be unable to do physically demanding roles because of pre-existing conditions.
The REC report contains a number of recommendations to help prevent recruitment shortages arising, including:
- There should be no blanket salary threshold for EU migrants wishing to work in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.
- Provisions for both temporary workers, and a seasonal workers scheme, must be included in any new immigration system.
- Employers should be allowed to recruit from the EU for any role that cannot be filled domestically.
- In its planning for future workforce needs, the Government should not overestimate the potential for either automation or UK nationals to fill the labour gap caused by a reduction in EU migration.
“Low-skilled work is too often talked about as if it’s not vital to our economy, but we need people to pick fruit and veg, sort and pack deliveries to supermarkets, and to cook and serve food once it reaches hotels, school canteens, and restaurants,” explained REC chief executive Kevin Green.
“Employers in these sectors are already talking about downscaling, closing or moving operations overseas if they can’t get people to fill jobs post-Brexit,” he added. “The Government needs to engage with business and ensure that any new immigration system is agile, pragmatic and based on a proper understanding of labour market data.”
Impact on the Hospitality Industry
The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has also raised concerns about the impact a restrictive post-Brexit immigration system could have on the hospitality industry.
In its submission to the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence on EEA migration and future immigration policy, it has warned that unless a streamlined and straightforward policy is put in place after Brexit, then growth in the UK’s eating and drinking out businesses will be jeopardised.
It has called on the Government to provide support for non-UK employees and their employers by guaranteeing a bespoke migration system for non-graduate EU workers acknowledging specific sectors and staff shortages, clarity on any transition period and assurances that the system will be convenient, transparent and affordable.
“There are around 150,000 EEA workers in the UK’s eating and drinking out sector, making a huge contribution and helping businesses grow,” said ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls. “Our sector has the second highest number of EEA workers and the fifth highest by proportion. If we do not have a streamlined immigration system in place, then the growth that these employees have helped drive will be severely undermined.”
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