From education to employment

Extending the #Brexit deadline is limited comfort for employers

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation

New data from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) shows that UK employers remain in limbo due to uncertainty even after the UK’s date for leaving the EU was postponed in April.

The latest JobsOutlook shows that employer confidence remained close to the record low levels reported last month, with their confidence in the British economy and in making hiring and investment decisions in their own businesses both rising by just 2 percentage points to net: -29 and net: -3 respectively.

Employers’ intentions to hire both permanent and temporary staff also remained fairly stable compared with the previous rolling quarter’s data. In the medium-term, the balance of forecast demand fell by 1 percentage point to net: +18 for permanent staff, and increased by 3 percentage points to net: +4 for temporary agency workers.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said:

“The Brexit extension has pushed the threat of a “no deal” Brexit into the Autumn, and the ending of our survey’s strong downward trend in confidence reflects this. But it is a temporary reprieve, with businesses stuck in a familiar holding pattern.

“The jobs market is robust, but more businesses remain negative about the future than positive. This will only change when they have a greater sense of being able to invest with confidence in the UK – and that comes with securing a sustainable and smooth outcome to the Brexit process.

“Employers are particularly concerned about being able to find the right people to grow their business when the moment comes. The survey shows that many businesses already have little surplus workforce capacity, with engineering and health and social care employers most concerned. Recruiters are working hard to help clients, and delivering great results. But a key part of the post-Brexit settlement must be an immigration system that is open to the skills and labour we need to drive British prosperity. Scrapping the £30,000 salary limit on visas for non UK citizens would be a big first step to securing this, protecting key sectors including the NHS.”

Other statistics from this month’s JobsOutlook include:

  • Four in five employers (80 per cent) reported having little or no surplus capacity in their workforce, such that they would need to take on extra staff if demand increased. This rose to 85 per cent amongst large organisations (250+ employees).
  • Just under half of employers (45 per cent) expressed concern over the sufficient availability of candidates for permanent hire, with Engineering & Technical, Health & Social Care and Construction the three skill areas they reported most concern about.
  • Worryingly, the two skill areas in which employers reported the highest short-term net demand for permanent staff were Engineering & Technical (net: +25) and Health & Social Care (net: +36).
  • More than half of employers of temporary agency workers (56 per cent) cited their importance in providing short-term access to key strategic skills, an increase of 3 percentage points from a year earlier.

JobsOutlook is produced by the REC in partnership with ComRes. ComRes interviewed 601 UK employers involved in hiring by telephone between 1 February and 23 April 2019. Data were weighted to be representative of UK adults in employment by region, broad industry sector and public/private split. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. 

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