The twin forces of Brexit and the Pandemic are combining to create a major labour shortage in the UK, particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors. The mass departure of foreign workers over the last 18 months has meant British employers are now struggling to hire staff.
It is thought as many as 1.3 million EU workers have left since late 2019 to sit out the pandemic in their home country or to avoid the post-brexit hostile environment altogether. Recent revelations of EU citizens being detained on arrival are only likely to further discourage those workers from returning to the UK labour market.
The CIPD reports that employers are planning to hire at the fastest rate in eight years amidst a rapid rebound in consumer spending. Job board advertising is up almost 20% over the last six weeks with hotels, restaurants and the leisure sectors driving most of that increase. At the same time, job searches from overseas have almost halved since February 2020, just before Covid-19 hit the UK. All lower skilled sectors are facing serious hiring challenges right across the country but felt particularly hard in seasonal towns outside of greater London.
Job offers have to be better; authentic employer values, positive working conditions and a sense of fun help to attract hard-to-convert millennials
According to a CIPD survey of more than 1,000 UK employers, the number of employers looking to add jobs rather than cut them was at its highest level since February 2013. As the dining sector opens up from lockdown the battle for staff hots up with the BBC reporting that restaurant group Hawksmoor are offering employees up to £2000 for successful referrals.
Firms looking to head-off recruitment difficulties will need to look to their own talent channels, according to Oliver Gibbs of recruitment software firm Recsite. “We've noticed a big drop in applications from job sites. Companies need to leverage their own career websites and social referral programs to stay in the mix. Job offers have to be better; authentic employer values, positive working conditions and a sense of fun help to attract hard-to-convert millennial applicants”. For sectors that have traditionally relied on a large pool of EU workers this is more important than ever.