Post-Brexit immigration still 'a significant concern'

British recruitment businesses fear the UK's new immigration system has the potential to "negatively impact the positive hiring trends that have survived the pandemic", according to a new survey.

Woman shakes hands with a new recruit while two other workers look on
Research by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) in conjunction with law firm Saffery Champness, found that 72% of recruiters operating purely in the UK, do not feel prepared for Brexit, with immigration "a significant concern" for the country’s economic recovery.

The UK needs access to flexible international skills, which isn't provided for by the points-based immigration system

According to APSCo, the new, points-based immigration system, which comes into effect at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, does not provide the viable routes for independent European workers that many UK businesses rely on.Ann Swain, APSCo chief executive, said, “The recruitment sector often acts as a barometer of economic trends so it’s highly encouraging to see resilience remain despite the struggles that we’ve all faced this year."However, if this optimism is to remain and the UK is to 'Build Back Better' (a government slogan), we need access to flexible international skills, something which the points-based immigration system and skilled worker route doesn’t provide.

Few highly-skilled EU workers likely to "willingly tackle" UK immigration system post-Brexit transition

“There is little to support and encourage contract workers to make a move to the UK for work after the transition period. Without a visa route that is geared to attract highly skilled contractors into the UK and, with lucrative opportunities available to these individuals in other countries, few are likely to willingly tackle the UK’s immigration system post-transition."While the government may be planning to bolster the economy and employment, if the skills aren’t there in the first place, post-Covid progress will be limited.”
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Operational resilience in UK recruitment companies

The survey asked businesses to score their company on a scale of 1 to 10 across a number of operational, organisational and financial criteria with 10 indicating a firm is ‘best in class’.When assessing their firm’s operational resilience, those with a Net Fee Income (NFI) in excess of £50 million indicated optimism remained in the strength of their business, with an average score of 8 and with no averages below 6 being recorded. A majority of companies also remained confident that they had the financial resilience and funding to weather the storm of Covid-19.However, the report also revealed concerning gaps in recruiter retention and investment in technology that could hinder progress for some recruitment businesses.Some 83% of firms with an NFI of more than £10 million have, or continue to develop, sector-specific technology. However, 35% of the firms with an NFI below £2 million scored themselves less than 5 on technology, indicating that smaller staffing companies have yet to reap the benefits of automation and cloud-based systems.Jamie Cassell, partner at Saffery Champness, said, “It’s encouraging to see the recruitment sector remain resilient despite the on-going challenges across the UK."The fact that so many businesses are indicating that they have the funding available and have developed a flexible business strategy to help weather the storm is highly welcome news in what has been an incredibly difficult year so far."We may be facing continued uncertainty, but the recruitment sector’s ability to continue operating will be crucial as it plays its part in getting the UK back to work."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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