One of the UK’s leading recruiters, which is headquartered in Leicester, is pulling out all the stops and raising standards for its sector in how it is supporting customers hit hard by Brexit. Encore Personnel – which operates 10 branches and 22 sites across the Midlands, employs more than 200 staff and places 4,000 workers each week, specialises in warehousing, manufacturing, logistics, driving, managed services and engineering recruitment – has worked round the clock to ensure its EU staff and candidates had settled status or an application in place before the July 1st deadline, meaning customer workflow hasn’t been disrupted.
However, operations director at Encore Ed Vigars said despite the fact that 95 per cent of its EU workers’ applications/settled status were progressing or approved, the overarching issue with net migration persists.
“Brexit has certainly impacted recruitment, which in turn impacts productivity, cost and efficiencies nationwide,” he said. “Primarily the number of workers coming and staying in Britain is the main challenge alongside the rush to get settled status for those who want to remain working here. Our biggest clients have relied on us to regularly check that their workers’ settled status applications have progressed and been approved. This has caused an increase in workload towards the deadline to ensure we’ve ticked every box and checked every detail for every worker.”
Vigars added that while the significant change in legislation has sent ripples through the industry and supply chains, the issue of net migration is still the biggest hurdle. “EU workers have left and aren’t returning,” he notes. “We’ve seen a 10 per cent decline in the number of EU workers coming to the UK this year compared to last. We used to see an influx of students coming to the UK in the summer for work – this hasn’t happened this year due to a combination of Brexit and Covid-19 travel restrictions.
“A prime example is that of a vegetable packing customer where 60 per cent of its work force has said they’re leaving. The concept of a points-based system to attract workers to the UK is great, but the fact remains that we need people who want to do the jobs like picking potatoes, packing the boxes and driving the lorries.”
A sample survey carried out by Encore amongst its EU workers reported that 40 per cent of the sample were intending to leave the UK and would not return for work. Ed explained that while Encore is doing all it can to support its customers in such unusual circumstances – such as heavily investing in candidate attraction, well-being and benefits, enhancing productivity and fast-tracking the candidate application journey and pioneering apprenticeships – more needed to be done on the national stage to address the looming problem of a ‘Brexit exodus’.
He said: “It isn’t an exodus quite yet, because we’re filling roles for our customers and we will continue to thanks to our excellent recruitment specialists and our robust network of contacts and candidates. However, I’ve never seen anything like this before in the 20 years I’ve worked in recruitment. The amount of unfulfilled roles coming to us is truly shocking – illustrated starkly to us by how several of our competitors have asked us for support in filling jobs. This has never happened before on this scale.
“The economy hasn’t shrunk, it has changed and evolved and we as a country need to move with these changes in order to maintain the levels of productivity and growth that we’ve come to expect in the 21st century. Investing in training, staff well-being and development and retention programmes is key, but so is finding a workable model for getting unskilled workers to fulfil roles, and the UK is a long way from that sort of stable flow of labour in this rocky post-Brexit period – highlighted on the government’s guidance to immigration points system which states: ‘There is no general route for employers to recruit at or near the minimum wage’.”