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4 October 2017
‘Insufficient’ number of UK nationals to fill low-skill roles

A recent report from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) called Ready, willing and able? Can the UK labour force meet demand after Brexit? revealed that ‘there is insufficient volume of UK nationals willing and able to fill the low-skill roles currently done by EU nationals’. Despite the effort of recruitment strategies and automation, this will be a problem that will be ongoing due to Brexit.

REC chief executive Kevin Green commented, “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.”

EU nationals make up 15% of workers who fill low-skilled roles and can be found in specific sectors with 33% in food manufacturing, 18% in warehousing and logistics and 14% in hospitality.

Green continued, “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. 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.”

The REC stated that ‘With record high employment already, recruiters warn that it will be impossible to replace EU workers with British substitutes. 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 is recommending that: 

  • 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.

You can download the full report here.

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