How to Address the potential Skills Gap threatened by Brexit

Companies in the UK that either do business in Europe or depend on EU talent have had two years to consider the consequences of Brexit to their workforce.  Nearly a third of British businesses employ over 50 workers who originate in the EU; over ten per cent employ more than 3,000 EU citizens in their businesses. This amounts to a very large skills gap if those workers have to or choose to return home.   

According to Financial Director over three-quarters of those reliant businesses have no clear provision or plan for future recruitment to plug their diminishing bank of talent when the UK leaves the EU and introduces restrictions on immigration.  Without a proactive approach to establishing an alternative source of suitable replacement workers either from outside the EU or looking inward to homegrown talent, many businesses will experience significant disruption and for some of them the failure to maintain their past service standards could very well sound the death knell in some instances. 

A number of EU workers have already chosen to leave the UK and the impact of the decrease has been felt.  On the positive side, the initial roll-out of the EU Settlement Pilot Scheme, part of the process for gaining settled status, has largely been a success, with ninety per cent of the applications successfully processed.   Any business that aims to retain their EU workers should start to analyse their existing workforce to establish a clear understanding of their existing workers present status and the likelihood of each individual’s potential of being accepted for settled status in the UK.  Once this exercise has been completed and the right-to-work checks have been confirmed a strategy can be developed to assist workers to secure their right to remain in the UK now that EU workers have now received the reassurance from the government that as long as they meet specific criteria, they will be eligible to apply for settled status to remain living and working in the UK once it leaves the EU.

Companies of all sizes must also consider more than one strategy for maintaining the skills required for their business, not just the retention of EU nationals; this could include developing existing employees’ potential for advancement and acquisition of new skills. This tactic avoids recruitment costs and sends a positive message to the workforce that says that the organisation has confidence in its staff and values the existing talent already present within it. Homegrown talent may offer another alternative and working with schools and colleges to develop training schemes that offer a career path for school leavers is another alternative.

The end of free movement will bring a raft of challenges which many businesses will have to face, not least will be additional costs.  However, a proactive approach and keeping a positive outlook will assist in creating a forward-thinking culture within the business, and helps people feel supported at a time of change and mitigates any potential negative impact on business performance.  The benefit of having a skilled and diverse workforce is that the extended range of thought often brings an alternative perspective to new business opportunities which open up; which, in turn, may inspire enthusiasm within both the staff and client base.  

For more information about managing your workforce before and after Brexit please click here