Businesses want clarity on future of EU workers

A recent snap poll of Chamber members has revealed that a quarter of business could be impacted in some way if restrictions were placed on EU workers as a consequence of Brexit.

Whilst the majority of those responding said they had never employed EU migrant workers, there was a genuine concern expressed by some businesses that employment restrictions would harm productivity and  significantly increase labour costs. Some firms have already seen employees return home rather than face continuing uncertainty about their right to remain in the UK.

In summary:

  • the majority of those responding (64%) either don’t or never have employed EU migrant workers.
  • of those that have employed EU migrants, 30% have employed low skilled workers; 20% semi-skilled; 25% highly skilled; and 35% a mix of all three.
  • 78% hadn’t noticed any change in the number of EU workers applying for jobs or leaving current jobs. The other 22% who reported change said they had seen a mix of fewer job applications, workers leaving current jobs or expressing an intention to return home in the near future. A few isolated cases actually reported an increase in job applications from EU nationals.
  • 26% indicated that their business would be impacted if access to migrant labour was restricted post Brexit.

The North & Western Lancashire Chamber was prompted to carry out the survey following a request from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).  Our findings have been fed into the BCC’s submission to the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence on the impacts of Brexit.  The committee is a public body that advises government on migration issues.

 

Since the referendum, we have repeatedly called on the government to give an unconditional guarantee to all EU citizens in the UK. We know, through our survey work that many businesses have already lost key members of staff, and other employees have indicated that they intend to leave the UK, due to the uncertainty over their immigration status. At a time of near full employment and the skills gap facing firms at all levels, the potential loss of existing EU employees in many firms would have a significant impact on UK productivity and growth.

In a further move, the Chancellor Philip Hammond has written to the British Chambers of Commerce to outline the government’s position on EU citizens living and working in the UK.  Read the full letter

The Chancellor’s response should give some assurances to EU citizens, particularly those that arrived before the triggering of Article 50 on 29 March 2017. These EU citizens will be able to stay until they have the five years’ residence to apply for UK settled status.  We understand that the offer is not as comprehensive as we would like, particularly for EU citizens that have arrived in the UK after the 29 March 2017, but we hope this will prove helpful to Chamber businesses seeking to support and advise their European employees.

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