The one current certainty around Brexit is the amount of uncertainty it is creating. Its impact on the free movement of people might hinder the UK’s ability to attract technology industry talent, specifically in high-value digital, technical and engineering industries where there is already a skills gap.
The skills gap is particularly troubling for the technology sector where it can already take a long time to find qualified candidates and the search often leads companies to explore candidates from other European countries.
Almost 2.2 million citizens of other EU countries work in the UK – and a staggering one million of this number are based in London. This mass migration of workers from Europe has happened naturally because of Britain’s membership in the EU, which guarantees free movement of labour among its member states.
Brexit therefore might begin to weigh on companies and employees, and not to state the obvious, but anything that effects workers, effects employers and businesses and impacts the overall economic prosperity of the country. Although this may not happen right away, the uncertainty alone will have an impact.
Many companies based in the UK have been outspoken about the government’s obligation to ensure that they still have access to the skilled labour force in Europe, or the UK will start to struggle to compete in these growing industries. However, there have been no reassurances from the government that this will fall into the long-term negotiation plans.
With so much uncertainty around the outcome of triggering Article 50, it is imperative that businesses begin to consider – and counter – what effect Brexit will have on the technology industry.
For employers who find themselves with EU citizens filing critical roles in the company, it is a good idea to encourage them to apply for permanent residency if they are eligible, which will in turn make them much less likely to lose their right to work. While some European workers may already be going down this path, employers cannot expect European employees to stick around for up to two years to find out if they are allowed to stay.
All of this could have a specific impact on small businesses according to a report released by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which highlights that over half of small businesses with EU workers are worried about accessing people with the right skills (59%), or growing their business (54%) post-Brexit.
Over the next couple of years, until everything is ironed out, small businesses, and businesses of any size, should be as proactive as possible.
Understanding the latest announcements about immigration and workplace eligibility throughout the Brexit negotiations will be key to ensuring you are ready no matter what comes. The situation will continue to evolve, so remaining well informed throughout will be vital.
Don’t forget, it remains a politically charged subject. In the coming months, you will see opinions from both sides of the debate designed to win an argument, rather than help your employees make the right decisions. So, it is important to reference reliable sources and seek out experts for your information to ensure you are equipped with exactly what you need to know.
Keep your team informed
You never know where your employees are getting their information about their employment options, so it is your job, to the best of your ability, to be a reliable resource for them. Learn together and keep the conversation flowing, because ultimately whatever happens will impact both the company and the individual.
Brexit and the possibility of losing employees is going to hit each organisation in a different way and similarly each organisation needs to have an individual plan to work with its employees. Deciding the level of legal support you are able to provide to employees looking to apply for permanent residency and work visas will be a crucial step. Whether it is hiring corporate legal support or suggesting outside council, an expert will be the best person to help provide guidance throughout the process.
Begin preparing now to have to replace some employees. With the skills gap that some industries are already experiencing, this could be a good push to foster the next generation of home grown talent. Engaging with universities to promote programs that encourage students to excel in specific industries and providing internships and training programs to bring talent into your company at a young age is a great place to start.
With so much uncertainty still surrounding Brexit, it is hard to say what to prepare for. But what is clear is that change is coming and the best way to prepare for the possibility of losing a portion of the British workforce who are from other European countries is to pay attention, stay informed and be proactive. Your employees are one of the most valuable assets your company has, so make them a priority.
Jake Madders is director at Hyve Managed Hosting.
Further reading on skills gap
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