On the 31st December 2020, the UK officially came to the end of its Brexit transition period, after formally leaving the European Union almost 12 months ago. This is a significant moment in our nation’s history and it’s one that will undoubtedly bring several changes to businesses with it, particularly when it comes to hiring employees.
If you haven’t yet considered how Brexit could potentially impact your recruitment plans for your business in 2021, we’ve created this guide to give you some insight of what might be on the horizon that you need to start preparing for.
In the CIPD’s 2018 labour market report, two-thirds of organisations said they would want to continue recruiting EU nationals to work for them after Brexit was complete. However, this will now be slightly more time consuming and challenging than before thanks to new immigration rules.
Now that free movement between the UK and EU is no longer possible, the UK government has introduced a new points-based immigration system that has been designed to treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. In other words, anyone coming to work in the UK from 1st January 2021 and beyond, with the exception of Irish citizens, will be awarded points for a job offer at the appropriate skill level, if they speak English, and for meeting the appropriate salary threshold. If they gain enough points, they will be awarded a Skilled Worker visa.
If you intend to start or continue recruiting candidates from overseas, your business must apply to become a Home Office approved licensed sponsor. Aside from proving your eligibility, you’ll also be required to pay an application fee, introduce appropriate systems to monitor sponsored employees and then wait up to eight weeks for your application to be assessed and scored.
This could potentially add more time onto your hiring process, as well as additional costs that you might not yet have considered. If you want to continue maintaining your access to non-UK workers, it's vital that you apply to be a sponsor sooner rather than later.
There’s also the government’s EU settlement scheme, which has been created for EU citizens who are already living and working in the UK. This scheme allows EU, EEA and Swiss citizens to apply for either Settled or Pre-Settled Status to continue living in the UK after 30th June 2021. This status is said to be dependent on how long they have resided in the UK. As an employer, you should start signposting all relevant employees to the scheme now to avoid potential issues later on in the year.
The government’s new immigration system might be a fantastic option for many. But for businesses who are unable to get approval for one reason or another, there will be little choice but to focus on hiring UK-based talent moving forward. This could mean that the recruitment process gets even more competitive in certain industries and particularly amongst businesses who require specialist or niche skillsets.
To tackle this potential increase in competition, employers will have to start rethinking how they can successfully entice skilled and experienced employees to their door. While an attractive salary is often the go-to, this might not be enough to help you stand out from the crowd, particularly given the current economic climate where salaries could decrease in relative terms.
Employees are likely to gauge businesses based on the benefits they can offer to them, so you need to ensure you’re offering something worthwhile. Flexible and remote working opportunities should definitely be considered, especially following the change in working patterns for many people as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Positive company culture and offering the latest technologies should also be considered to help improve employee attraction and retention levels.
While hiring senior and highly skilled non-UK nationals is expected to be far easier with the new immigration rules, but what about so-called ‘low-skilled’ roles. Many businesses who previously relied on low-skilled EU labour may now have to consider developing their own UK-based staff to help fill the gaps left within their teams once their access is cut off.
To do this, employers could widen their existing recruitment criteria and target demographics or enlist the help of a recruiter to find suitable UK-based employees. There could be untapped resources out there that your business might not have considered before, such as women who have left work to raise a family and who may now be looking to return to the workplace.
Entry-level roles that do not require particular skillsets could provide training and development opportunities to your business that can help you with staff retention. By providing your employees with opportunities to refresh their knowledge or upskill, you can work towards filling any gaps you might have in your team. apprenticeship schemes or graduate programmes are also fantastic options to introduce because it enables employees to learn the skills they need on the job.
Additional training and improved recruitment strategies are likely to require investment, so consider what options your business can afford at this time.
Both Brexit and COVID-19 have created a lot of uncertainty for UK businesses over the past 12 months, with no signs of ceasing anytime soon. This uncertainty could mean that businesses aren’t able to hire long-term, permanent staff at the moment, which could leave their teams under-staffed. Naturally, this can lead to overworked staff, lowered employee satisfaction and reduced productivity over time.
So, there is a possibility that businesses will call upon skilled contractors and other interim professionals to help them complete projects, meet deadlines or create strategies and plans more than ever before this year. This can be a practical option that provides some much-needed breathing space whilst businesses try to find a more long-term solution and ensures their productivity is maintained. However, if your competitors also go down the same route, you could find that you're met with fierce competition when trying to find the best contractors for the job. Again, you'll need to consider how to make yourself stand out so contractors and interim professionals will want to work with you, even if its only for a matter of weeks.
If your business hasn’t worked with contractors or freelancers previously, you’ll also need to consider the financial implications and be prepared to complete background checks on work history, licenses and qualifications before signing on the dotted line. This again is something that a recruitment agency can help you with if needs be.
Please feel free to get in touch with the Vantage Consulting team to discuss your recruitment plans for 2021 for additional support and guidance.