Brexit and the Workforce: What Comes Next?

28th September 2019 - 12:00

by Nicole Morley

With the 31st October Brexit deadline looming and still so much uncertainty, no one knows for sure what the future holds for Britain. No one is certain what lies ahead, especially in terms of the workforce and potential changes to free movement of people.

This comes at a time when the UK’s tech industry is already facing a skills shortage. There are currently more than 90,000 vacancies to be filled in the tech sector[1], and many tech executives have expressed concern that this will only worsen with Brexit-induced changes to the nation’s immigration practices. Software engineers are some of the most sought after employees in the entire UK labour force[2], and companies are struggling to fill the role as it is. Sourcing tech talent will likely become even more of a challenge should a new system come into play.

The question now becomes: what can UK businesses do in order to minimise the potential negative impacts on their workforce post-Brexit?

 

Visa Sponsorship

If the organisation is truly dedicated to sourcing international talent, there are steps that can be taken to continue this type of recruitment post-Brexit. No matter if the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal, current EU nationals living in Britain are able to continue living here as normal for a period of time. The employee can apply for settled or pre-settled status[3] to remain after that period of time, and will retain the rights they had pre-Brexit. Hiring these individuals will be as it always has been. But in order to attract new foreign talent – those not yet living in Britain, the organisation should consider becoming a licensed sponsor with UK Visas & Immigration[4]. Once registered, the business can offer Tier 2 and 5 sponsorship to non-UK nationals for a designated period of time, with option to renew.

If the company is already a licensed sponsor, it is likely they already have a sponsorship policy in place within their HR department or hiring practices. Due to the various fees involved, sponsorship can be an expensive option for employers. Some organisations may limit the amount of certificates of sponsorship they are willing to issue as a result.

These companies could consider increasing the number of visas they are willing to sponsor in order to draw top talent from not only the EU and EEA, but also from the USA, Asia, and Middle East. It is unclear what changes lie ahead for the visa process, but being a licensed sponsor and keeping an open mind about sponsoring non-UK talent is a solid option.

 

Invest in Existing Talent

That said, companies don’t always need to search across borders to fill their open positions. Sometimes, the best talent is already on the payroll.

Another option for filling the skills gap is to upskill and retrain existing talent. Providing training, funding further education, and encouraging continuous learning opportunities for staff are all great ways for companies to fill the skills gaps in their organisation. Not only does this save time spent searching for new staff, but shows current staff that they are valued in the organisation and that their employer is invested in their future.

 

Hiring Home-grown Talent

While Brexit concerns typically centre around international employees, companies don’t need to cross international borders to find capable tech talent. There are numerous skilled workers already here in the UK that may not already be working for the company.

 The government recently announced three Local Digital Skills Partnerships (Local DSPs) aimed at bringing together businesses, charities, and public sector organisations to tackle digital skills challenges in three major regions of the country[5]. The South East is one of these regions, and it is predicted that the South East strategy for growth will see 200,000 new jobs created by 2021[6]. The various initiatives taking place as part of the DSPs will help to promote skills development of UK workers, and perhaps encourage a pivot towards technology-focused careers.

Moreover, while a candidate may not always seem like the perfect fit on paper, he or she may have skills that are transferrable or applicable in the role. Employers should keep an open mind about these skills, and see them as valuable assets rather than drawbacks. Further training can be given and skills can be learned on the job.

 

Given this existing skills shortage and continued Brexit uncertainties, the hiring outlook for UK employers may seem bleak. The truth is, they do in fact have many options. It’s a question of choosing the right ones for the organisation. This may require the organisation to become open to visa sponsorship, or to invest in their existing talent. It may require them to take a second look at the talent available right here at home.

 If you’re looking for the right talent to join your team, we can help. Get in touch to learn more. 

 

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/09/01/businesses-urge-chancellor-tackle-uk-skills-shortage-latest/

[2] https://www.ft.com/content/36baacce-ddd0-11e8-9f04-38d397e6661c

[3] https://www.gov.uk/eusettledstatus

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sponsor-a-tier-2-or-5-worker-guidance-for-employers

[5] https://digitalskillspartnership.blog.gov.uk/2019/03/15/three-new-local-digital-skills-partnerships/

[6] https://www.southeastlep.com/our-strategy/skills/

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