As well as assessing the extent to which Brexit-related immigration changes may impact your existing workforce, you will also need to consider whether changes are going to result in recruitment challenges and labour shortages, and if so, make plans to ensure your business is protected.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce the impact of immigration changes on your business post-Brexit.
1. Make sure you have a clear understanding of where and how much you are using EU workers currently.
You probably have a reasonable idea but conducting a proper audit will help you identify which jobs or groups of jobs are partially or completely occupied by workers from EU countries. You should be able to identify patterns and areas of particular vulnerability, particularly when you compare your information with turnover data.
2. Will there be a skills/labour shortage?
Once you know which jobs in your business are currently occupied by EU workers, you can undertake some exploratory research to work out whether there is actually a skills or labour shortage for these roles in the UK. It may be that although the jobs are filled with EU workers currently, it wouldn’t actually present much of a problem to only be able to source labour from within the UK. The government has a list of occupations for which there is a specific shortage, however obviously there may be whole groups of occupations which are not experiencing a shortage because of the availability of EU migrant labour, so you need to look wider than that.
Industry bodies, recruitment agencies and events relating to your industry can all be useful sources of information to help you gather an impression of whether relying on UK labour would be problematic. If there are specific skills you need, local colleges may be able to give details of popularity of courses, and training providers may be able to offer advice on the numbers of candidates training in the various relevant skills you need.
3. Will work permits be possible or appropriate?
If there is a shortage in the area you need workers, you can investigate whether sponsoring workers to get work permits might be possible. This is likely to be expensive, and will require the organisation to obtain a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence if you do not already have one. As well as being expensive it may also be time-consuming and possibly not worth doing unless there is no other option.
4. Take your own steps to address the shortage
Rather than relying on work permits, and especially if the roles you need are low-skilled or numerous in quantity, you probably need another plan to address any skills/labour shortage you foresee as a result of Brexit.
You could adjust your workforce planning to include apprentices, to grow the skills you need rather than relying on them from elsewhere. If there is a lack of available training to meet the needs your business has, could you develop your own programme?
If the problem is recruitment of sufficient labour rather than a lack of skills, what can you do to make your business appealing as an employer, to make the roles more attractive to candidates, and to reach a wider pool of potential employees. Now is the time to get creative, look into ways to tap into the local workforce who perhaps haven’t seen the jobs you offer as being an option previously.
Can you adjust the hours of roles to make them appealing to those looking for family-friendly work patterns? Can you offer homeworking or other concessions which might increase the appeal of your jobs? Is there a student workforce you could start tapping into through a partnership with local colleges and universities?
As with any business challenge, the better an understanding you have of the problem facing you, the easier it is to plan successfully to overcome it and to minimise its impact on your business. Get together a picture of what the impact of Brexit immigration changes might be and starting putting in place strategies in advance so that you are not caught out, and don’t have gaps in the skills and labour your business needs to succeed.
If you would like more advice on how to reduce the impact of immigration changes on your business post-Brexit do get in touch.