Employers report fall in jobseeker suitability as Brexit approaches

13 Aug 2018 By Hayley Kirton

Lower EU migration ‘feeding into’ existing recruitment challenges, CIPD warns

Problems with job candidate suitability have been “exacerbated” by fewer EU migrants coming to the UK in the run up to Brexit, a CIPD report published today has cautioned.

The most recent quarterly Labour Market Outlook, which was carried out in association with The Adecco Group and surveyed more than 2,000 employers, discovered the number of applicants per vacancy had fallen across all skill levels since summer 2017. 

Gerwyn Davies, the CIPD’s senior labour market analyst, said the “significant slowdown” in EU nationals coming to the country to work was “feeding into increasing recruitment and retention challenges, particularly for employers in sectors that have historically relied on non-UK labour to fill roles and which are particularly vulnerable to the prospect of future changes to immigration policy for EU migrants”.

Alex Fleming, country head and president of staffing and solutions at The Adecco Group UK and Ireland, added: “With Brexit looming we’re seeing a talent shortage and a more competitive marketplace.”

The report found that, among employers who currently have vacancies, two-thirds (66 per cent) said at least some were proving hard-to-fill. Two in five (40 per cent) employers believed it had become harder to fill positions over the last 12 months. 

Meanwhile, the median number of applicants for medium-skilled positions has almost halved in the last year, going from 19 candidates in summer 2017 to 10 in summer 2018. The number of candidates for low-skilled vacancies has dropped from 24 to 20 and the number for high-skilled roles from eight to six. 

Davies added: “With skills and labour shortages set to worsen further against the backdrop of rising talk of a ‘no deal’ outcome with the EU, the need for the government to issue consistent, categorical assurances about the status of current and future EU citizens, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, is more important now than ever.”

The most recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) migration figures, published in July, showed the number of people coming to the UK from the EU had fallen by 9,000 in the year to December, while the number of EU citizens leaving had risen by 23,000. 

CIPD analysis of ONS labour market statistics, also released last month, revealed the number of EU-born workers in the UK rose by just 7,000 between the first quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, compared with a rise of 148,000 such workers the year before. 

Late last week, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called on the government to drop its net migration target after Brexit and overhaul the non-EEA migration system to make sure companies could hire the staff they needed. 

“For global Britain to succeed, the UK must send the right signals that show it remains open and welcoming to the world,” said Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general. “That means putting migration on the table in trade talks to get us a better deal, first with the EU and then other countries where it is clear existing visa restrictions inhibit trade and foreign direct investment.”

However, also late last week, former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that many employers “simply have not even bothered to try and find UK people to work”. 

The CIPD report also revealed the struggle to secure skilled staff had boosted salaries for new starters. However, most workers’ wages would remain reasonably stagnant, with an average rise of just 2 per cent expected in the year to June 2019. 

Davies remarked that stalled productivity growth was keeping wages low, adding: “Poor skills development, skills mismatches, lack of worker autonomy and inadequate management all have a significant impact on people’s productivity at work, which affects organisational performance and employers’ ability to increase wages.”

The ONS is due to publish its latest labour market statistics, which will report on national employment rates for the three months ending in June 2018, tomorrow. It is also scheduled to release flash productivity statistics.

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