Brexit Quarterly Update

March 2019

Contents

As the year began, the UK Government launched the euexit.campaign.gov.uk website.

The site has information aimed at businesses, EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.

The site covers all exit scenarios and provides previously published advice on a range of topics.

Similarly, January also saw the official start of the process to allow EU nationals to apply for settled status in the UK. The 3.5 million now have until June 2021 to apply. Initially the scheme carried an application fee of £65 but this has been subsequently removed by the Prime Minister.

In order to carry this out, the Government has invested £175m, hired 1,500 new caseworkers and even developed a smartphone app. Despite this think-tank, British Future has warned that one in three may struggle to complete the application due to poor English or IT skills.

Brexit has featured high on The Best Connection Risk Register and remains a subject that we will continue to treat, as knowledge improves and intent becomes clearer.

The risk is driven at Board level and reviewed monthly, with new surveys to our EU nationals rolled out that will amplify their views as Brexit changes shape, be it deal or no-deal.

The Best Connection supports direct communication to all EU workers and has designated Alex Dirman as the representative to deliver a series of Brexit informational projects.

Alex is a Project Manager in the Onsite Connection team within The Best Connection Group. He has 5 years experience in recruitment, specialising in the implementation and management of Onsites and Added Value contracts. Furthermore, he is a Romanian citizen who has been living in the UK for the past 6 years and understands how important it is to be informed on this subject.

Alex is playing a key role in delivering the Brexit Communication both internally and externally for our company by championing the below projects:

  • Brexit informational web page for all EU workers
  • Design Brexit informational notices/handouts with QR code option integrated and translated in multiple EU languages
  • Set up paid social media campaign
  • Design and organize the undertaking of a Brexit survey for temporary workers
  • Weekly internal updates to guide all TBC staff on how best to support EU workers and where to find all necessary information

The Facts

*Note: The below statistics are sourced from the official ONS web site and are estimated figures

We have an ever-increasing demand for labour at a time when the UK’s employment rate is the highest on record.

Net migration from the EU fell to its lowest level in 10 years; to 57,000 people, in the year to September 2018. This is still a positive figure for the year. At the same time, net migration from outside the EU rose to its highest level for 15 years; to 261,000 people. This figure has been rising steadily since the EU referendum.

Migration Statistics
Labour Market
 

One area where net migration is negative is citizens from EU8 countries. These are the eight countries in central and Eastern Europe that joined the European Union in 2004. These eight are: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

UK net migration from EU countries, year ending September 2018

The number of EU nationals arriving in the UK with a definite job offer was relatively stable directly after the referendum but fell sharply throughout 2018. In contrast, the volume of EU nationals arriving in the UK looking for work fell sharply after the referendum and was fairly stable throughout 2018.

As those arriving from outside the European Union would require a visa to work, their rise is driven by a rise in those arriving with a definite job offer.

EU Nationals Migration
 

The Best Connection Facts

What do we think the risks might be?

Provided that negotiations carry on along the lines of the present policy, there may be fewer issues than first forecast. Currently Eastern Europeans already working in the UK appear happy to continue to do so whilst they feel wanted. Initially, Brexit was a cause for concern throughout the EU workforce, but as assurances have been given and confidence restored we have been able to retain most of the workers.

In terms of attracting workers from the EU, this has slowed down from countries such as Poland, Czech Republic and Latvia, as their economies are getting stronger, creating better opportunities without the need for relocation. However, there is still a high level of desire from people in Bulgaria and Romania to take up positions in the UK. Whilst it is true to say that the level of English spoken by workers from these countries can vary, good quality vetting procedures can ensure the suitability of the workers, before they arrive in the UK.

What are the options?

We must continue to communicate with the existing EU workforce to make them feel welcome, to enable us to retain their services and act as a reference point for people considering working in the UK.

The Best Connection has done this throughout its EU workforce; an example of the on-going communication can be provided if requested.

Additionally, The Best Connection has recently completed a survey of its EU Workers and the results are as follows. Of the EU workers surveyed 56% were Polish, 17% were Romanian, 47% were in the 26-40 age range, and 30% were in the 41-55 age range.

EU Worker Survey
EU Worker Sruvey
 

Whilst just an overview it is clear that the vast majority of EU workers currently on assignment intend to stay in the UK if they are made welcome and valued, and are provided with the information and assistance needed to obtain UK residency status.

Our timeline for communications is below:

We should consider whether jobs can be performed effectively and safely by workers with less experience and/or limited English language skills, and where appropriate assist them in improving those skills.

Wherever there is a demand for workers that is higher than the available resource, the workers will naturally move to the best opportunities. This may mean pay/ benefits but increasingly more important to those workers is the way in which they are treated, working environment, and length of assignment. Some organisations will short shift their workforce on a regular basis and wonder why they leave for more regular work. The answer is to make our client the assignment of choice, treat the workforce well and they will stay.

It is apparent that the EU workforce crave long term work particularly where progression allows them to take up permanent positions.

Additionally, where necessary we should look at shift patterns to ensure that the workforce can commute where public transport is inadequate, and where possible create a collaborative association with local companies with different peaks in business.

As wages increase due to National Minimum Wage, we must encourage more local people to fill these vacancies.

Additionally, the Best Connection has created a business relationship with an organisation able to offer training to suitable, unemployed candidates, possessing the right attitude, who are able to become an immediate asset to any company, in sufficient numbers to negate the impact of any shortfall in EU workers. It is our intention to build upon this relationship.

In terms of driving shortfalls we are training people “from warehouse to wheels” but this requires companies willing to engage drivers with limited experience.

What are the mitigating factors?

We do not know where the negotiations will take us, up to and following the final Brexit deal, therefore we have to remain vigilant and not take EU workers for granted.

The government’s desire and ability to encourage people, particularly the younger generation, to choose work rather than unemployment will also be a factor.

How do we see the labour market etc.?

In relation to the Industrial, Warehouse and Driving markets, during 2017 and into 2018, The Best Connection has experienced an unprecedented demand for good quality workers.

Where companies have worked with us and reacted to the changing market, we have been able to satisfy their needs.

Throughout the recession years, worker availability was obviously higher than demand. In many large organisations this led to workers’ average pay reducing with little thought to worker welfare as retention was not an issue.

The opposite is now the case, workers pay needs to be competitive and as previously mentioned they need to be treated well within reasonable working environments, or retention is an issue.

If organisations fail to retain the workforce this inevitably leads to a loss of productivity and additional training costs for replacement workers.

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