With Brexit on the horizon one of the main concerns for businesses is the availability of workers. With a dip in numbers of EU citizens coming to the UK, a growing number of small and medium-sized employers are setting their sights on the global talent pool. However, current restrictions intended to limit net UK migration could be holding some back as the monthly cap on numbers of non-EU workers is now being reached.
It is anticipated that there will be some changes to Immigration in the future and while the Government has provided some reassurances about the status of EU workers after Brexit for those already living and working in the UK, significant areas of uncertainty remain. For many employers, the worst-case scenario is that EU workers will be treated the same way as non-EU workers, which will increase administration and require them to provide more support with visa applications.
For some businesses looking to recruit high-skilled workers however, this period of uncertainty is encouraging them to start looking beyond the confines of the EU in the search for talent for the first time.
In the past, multinationals and larger corporates have gained access to a global talent pool through inter-company transfers and this is expected to continue. For SMEs however, the recruitment focus to date has been on the EU because of the ease of freedom of movement.
SMEs need to adapt their recruitment approach
Looking ahead, SMEs across a range of industry sectors may need to adapt their approach to recruitment. As well as attracting EU-based talent, they may wish to widen the net to recruit skilled workers from countries such as Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. If they have a specific need for low-skilled workers, due to seasonal demand for example, they may also need to consider how to fill this employment gap.
While looking further afield sounds a good idea, some businesses it appears are being restricted because of current restrictions on net migration. It is possible that the current cap on non-EU worker migration which is set at just 20,700 per annum, could be raised in the future to compensate for any reduction in the number of EU workers coming to the UK. If these restrictions are lifted, even temporarily, businesses ready to attract and recruit talent from overseas after Brexit could gain a competitive advantage.
With this in mind, it is important for employers to be as prepared as possible by putting in place procedures to assist in the recruitment of non-EU workers and exploring alternative recruitment channels. Those employers that rely on access to seasonal, low-skilled labour will need to consider how to fill this employment gap. Without freedom of movement, it may be necessary to recruit more British workers into such positions and this may involve recruiting more part-time workers, which could require procedural and administrative changes.
Global mobility: An opportunity for all employers
Global mobility is increasingly being viewed as an opportunity for all employers, not just the big corporates. By being prepared and putting in place the right level of support now, small and medium-sized businesses can gain access to a wider talent pool and be ready to act quickly once the detail of any transition plan is known.