So, Brexit negotiations have come down to sausages – really?!

On the (almost) eve of one of the biggest political divorces of a generation and we are fighting over meat products. Don’t get us wrong, its a massively important industry, but shouldn’t we really be investing time in thinking about how meat products reach the shelves and who is involved in that process, i.e. staff?

Have you lost track of Brexit news, negotiations, deals, or even ignored the B-word on account of the C-word (Coronavirus, not the other one!) Well its time to put the blinkers on and gen-up about how to ‘save your bacon’ when it comes to filling staffing positions historically populated by European/foreign workers. 1st January 2021 cometh……

“and the survey said…”

… demand for blue collar temporary staff is at unprecedented levels, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.  Seemingly 7% of the UK workforce is made up by EU nationals, over-represented in low to middle skilled roles.  Wow, how are we going to plug that gap when free movement ends?  This is a particular horror story for those operating in agriculture or food production industries, who often rely on EU migrants to fill seasonal peaks, among a plethora of others such as construction and nursing. As the Brexit Express gathered speed, the inflow of EU workers to the UK dropped dramatically, especially after the 2020 Brexit vote. 

However, there’s a chink of light appearing as we approach the deadline, with numbers rising slightly, albeit nowhere near enough, as people grapple to secure settlement status through the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). Points mean prizes, and its wise to understand the new points-based immigration scheme, as well as EUSS, to weigh-up which staff markets to go shopping in.  Don’t spend time on long-shots, else your competitors might just pip you to the post

How have we got to this position of critical staff shortages given the Covid-19 induced mounting unemployment levels in the UK?

Despite campaigns such as ours to ‘Save Christmas’ and this summer’s seasonal workers scheme, we are still seeing gaps in resourcing and many farm fields were left to rot.

Why are UK workers shunning vacancies which were being filled by the foreign contingent? Potentially due to a recipe of cultural mindset (some natives won’t to do certain jobs out of pride and being perceived as menial) and complacency by employers – going down the easiest route, not making industries/jobs attractive to UK nationals and low wage rates. In fairness, on the latter, it’s the end-user for example in food production i.e. supermarkets etc, driving down wage costs with low product buy prices. Very much a chicken and egg scenario and it’s yet to be seen if the consequences of Covid-19 job losses will force people’s hand and direction into these blue-collar sector roles.

The challenge is here to stay.

One thing’s for sure, the challenge is here to stay and many companies will have to raise prices as the cost of labour increases; costs which will be passed on to the consumer – every little might not help for much longer. That’s IF companies stay in the UK; some are looking to, or already have, relocated abroad and are importing products into the UK rather than struggling to staff their factories here.

The long and short of it is, we should be debating and finding solutions to this conundrum….and rapidly.  We either educate young and old as to the value of a ‘good days honest work’ in ALL industries and types of jobs, rather than hanging onto the coat-tails of the welfare state, or see swathes of industry ‘go to the dogs’ (or abroad) due to escalating labour chasms and costs, or even worse, an explosion of human trafficking.   Although the Government insists the new UK immigration system will “protect individuals from exploitation by criminal traffickers and unscrupulous employers,” – time will tell.

The Big Brexit Business Survey

So when you’re eating your Brexit sausage sandwich, get involved and share your views via our Big Brexit Business Survey, HERE

It will hopefully get you thinking about and shed light on the following to help us prepare:

  • How many businesses are looking to sponsor skilled staff?
  • What will businesses do that currently rely on EU workers to manage seasonal peaks?
  • Will the points-based system work to attract skilled people to the UK?
  • How many employers are still in denial about the prospect of a no deal?

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