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Skilled workers: harder to recruit if we leave the EU?

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The threat of a vote to leave the EU on the 23rd of June is raising a few questions on whether our recruiting sources will be limited by frontiers or if; on the contrary, we will have a greater degree of freedom to make better laws and do better trade deals.

A recent survey carried out by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) pointed out that more than half of the recruiters asked believed that staying in the EU would be best for the UK economy (53%), the UK jobs market (55%) or their own recruitment business (56%).

Let’s have a look at some of the key questions facing businesses looking to recruit the best talent for their business.

Would Brexit make it harder to recruit EU qualified workers?

It’s estimated that between 3 and 4 million jobs in the UK are related to trade deals with the EU. If there is a Brexit, citizens of other member states would in theory no longer be entitled to travel and work in Britain -or at least not until the agreements are re-negotiated.

Would this make it harder to recruit EU workers with more red tape to address? Or, on the other hand, would this give our country the power to be more selective on the skills of those wanting to come and work here?

The price of accessing the single market could be allowing the free movement of people, like in Norway. But there are other options like a work permit system where all immigrants (EU nations and non EU members) would be treated exactly the same. This will allow our country to decide easily which skilled workers can have access to our job market.

What about those already working here?

As there will also be plenty of Britons working in other state member countries, it seems hard to believe that an appropriate arrangement would not be in place to cover this situation.

If Britain decides to leave the EU nothing will change overnight – there will be a negotiation process of at least two years to decide on the new trade deals. But individuals will no doubt review their personal circumstances and some may decide to take matters into their own hands.

Will it be then even harder to cope with a skills shortage?

Let’s not forget that many aspects of the UK economy are benefiting from immigrant workers.  

The skills shortage that we are facing has been relieved by those who have decided to come and work in our country. Industries like construction and engineering  rely significantly on foreign workers to fill skill gaps.

Making the paperwork more complicated could result in a smaller talent pool to dip into and therefore fewer skilled candidates to go round.

How would British workers be affected by Brexit?

Most of the working regulations are currently defined by EU law. These include maternity and paternity pay, holiday wages and redundancy regulation.

How an opt out decision would impact on employment laws is hard to predict but a UK government with total freedom might be able to move more quickly, will they have the same priorities?  

Changes that British workers might not want to have missed out on include the Working Time Directive, which limits employees to a 48-hour workweek unless they agree otherwise, and the Agency Workers Directive, which gives workers the same rights as other employees if they’ve worked for an employer for 12 consecutive weeks or more.

The uncertainty is set to continue

Many in the industry believe that recruitment and hiring has already been affected in the run up to the referendum and, regardless of the outcome of the vote, that uncertainty will continue for some time.

In the April Jobs Outlook report, published by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), there was a growth in short term employment relationships. REC Chief Executive Kevin Green believes that employers are hedging their bets against the prospect of change.

Even if the vote is to remain a part of the EU the debates that the referendum process has started will not end overnight.

How do you see the implications for your job prospects post 23rd June?