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Will job seekers have the upper hand post-Brexit?

While the country takes a timeout from Brexit to decide who will govern the UK through the process of leaving the EU, the impact of last June’s referendum result on employers apparently continues. As we continue to see newspaper articles about European businesses and citizens getting ready to leave the country, new research has been published by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body for the UK’s recruitment industry.

Job seekers taking a ‘wait-and-see approach’ to Brexit

The headline results from REC’s report showed a drop in candidates for permanent jobs in 38% of recruitment agencies, the biggest drop in over a year. Almost as many agencies also reported a drop in applications and availability for temporary position.

Chief executive Kevin Green stated, “Demand for staff is growing but there are fewer people available to fill vacancies,” and cited Brexit as the key factor in making people more cautious about switching jobs.

What does this mean?

REC’s research noted an observable trend of EU nationals leaving lower paid UK jobs to return home. The key reasons cited are the weakening pound and the lack of certainty about the status of EU citizens. While this may cause kneejerk satisfaction with some Leave voters, the reality is likely to be a growing gap in the workforce at a level that UK citizens have traditionally been reluctant to fill; as highlighted in a recent CIPD report that warns of a future ‘low-value, low-skills economy’ post-Brexit.

Looking to the future

At this stage, no one really knows yet what the real impact of Brexit will be on the UK labour market because the details of the UK’s exit deal (or lack of) are still to be negotiated. However, it is precisely that lack of certainty which is likely to have a negative effect, in the short term at the very least.

UK employers have a choice of crossing their fingers and trusting to luck or taking some preliminary (and precautionary) steps based on what is currently known, such as:

  • Reassuring currently employed EU citizens, encouraging them to do anything they can to solidify their position in the UK while awaiting the results of negotiations, such as applying for their permanent residence card.
  • Ensuring the employer brand is attractive and competitive.
  • Looking at the total reward package on offer to potential recruits – salary is important but other benefits can often differentiate you from competing companies.
  • Reviewing the recruitment process, making it as efficient and streamlined as possible (for candidates in receipt of multiple job offers, their personal view of the potential employers comes down to the application and assessment experience).
  • Being able to show a clear and compelling vision for the company in a post-Brexit UK.
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