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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wakelin

How has Brexit affected recruitment for employers?

Updated: May 25, 2023

Three years on since Brexit.

One of the main effects of Brexit on employers was the end to the freedom of movement for workers to and from the EU, which according to the think tanks UK in a Changing Europe and the Centre for European Reform, has reduced workers in the UK by approximately 330,000.

The following industries have been affected by a shortage of workers and have lost the following percentages of their available workforce since Brexit:

  • transport and warehousing - 8%

  • wholesale and retail - 3%

  • food and hospitality - 4%

  • manufacturing - 2%

  • construction - 2%

What changes have been made to UK immigration rules?

Since Brexit, the UK government has made significant changes to immigration rules to increase immigration from non-EU countries. This includes moving away from the old points-based sponsorship scheme, where employers had to first satisfy the resident labour market test before recruiting a foreign national.

A merit-based points system is now in place for nationals from overseas who wish to work in the UK, which applies to those from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals who are not part of the EU Settlement Scheme and non-EEA nationals. The new scheme has different application routes, with Skilled Worker being the most commonly used by employers who are a Home Office-licenced sponsor. To licence an applicant as a skilled worker, the licenced sponsor must offer a legitimate job to an English speaking individual, on a salary at meets a minimum threshold.

Alternative routes include:

  • Health and care visa for the health service

  • Global business mobility for multinational companies to transfer workers in, from outside the UK

  • Global talent for promising individuals in science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology

  • Start-up and innovator to attract entrepreneurial talent and innovative, scalable business ideas to the UK

  • Temporary for those entering the UK on short-term contracts

  • Youth mobility for 18 to 30 year olds to stay up to two years from nine collaborating countries

  • Graduate for international students completing degrees in the UK

  • Student for those completing higher and further education in the UK

How easy is it for employers to become a Home Office-licenced sponsor?

It is not just larger employers who are suffering from labour shortages and, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, double the number of small businesses are now looking at sponsorship as an option in 2023.

Small businesses are often put off of applying to become a Home Office-licenced sponsor, believing that it would be too difficult, bureaucratic and costly. However, an employer mainly needs to prove that they have a genuine vacancy at the relevant skill and salary level. The cost will depend on the size of the business and the immigration route chosen by the employer and employee, but is generally fairly cost-effective, ie for small businesses, it may be as little as £536 for four years.

What is next on the agenda for immigration?

Free EU movement is unlikely to return, certainly in the short-term, regardless of a change in Government. However, it is hoped that the Government will continue to look at ways to assist those industries struggling to recruit skilled workers, such as healthcare, hospitality and transport.

In addition to this, the Government could look at investment into home-grown talent, such as developing existing and future skills in school leavers or job changers to deliver the growth and services the country truly deserves.

SWan HR Consultancy (London and Kent)

SWan HR is an HR consultancy that specialises in HR support for small to medium sized businesses in the South East.

"Where HR Succeeds, the Business Achieves"

SWan HR was founded by Susan Wakelin, MCIPD, who is a qualified HR professional with over thirty years' experience, from setting up, auditing and improving HR functions to management coaching and supporting organisations through difficult situations, transformation and change.

SWan HR provides a broad range of tailored HR services including an HR audit, HR advice, HR outsourcing, HR coaching and project work for all businesses.

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