On the day that Parliament returns from summer recess, the British Chambers of Commerce has released the results of a survey of more than 800 UK businesses who employ EU staff, revealing that more than two fifths of companies report their EU employees have expressed concern over their future residency status following the vote to leave the European Union.
The survey, undertaken a month after the referendum vote, shows that a small number of businesses (5%) have seen EU employees resign already following the June 23 vote, while 10% of businesses have reported that their EU employees have stated their intention to leave the UK.
The BCC calls on the government to provide immediate certainty for both businesses and employees on the residence rights of existing EU employees. The potential skills lost from existing EU workers leaving the UK would hamper businesses at a time when many are already reporting recruitment difficulties. Businesses also need clarity on hiring from the 27 other EU countries during the transition period.
The government must also create a future immigration policy that allows businesses to plug their skills shortages with employees from the EU, with minimal bureaucracy, cost or barriers. There is still a significant skills gap in the UK, and while it is vital that the government continues to address this through expanding apprenticeships and vocational training, businesses need to be able to access the specialist skills and talent that they need from all of the world, not just a part of it.
Findings from the survey:

  • More than two fifths (41%) of companies that employ EU workers say EU staff have expressed uncertainty over their future residency status
  • 5% of businesses that employ EU workers have seen EU employees resign following the vote to leave the European Union
  • 10% of businesses have seen their EU employees state their intention to leave the UK
  • 60% of businesses surveyed think residency guarantees for EU workers would have a positive impact on their business (the remaining 28% said it would have no impact and a further 9% said they were unsure or it was not applicable)

Adam Marshall, BCC Acting Director General, said:
“Since the referendum many firms have expressed concern over the future status of their existing EU workforce. These hardworking people are absolutely vital to the success of businesses, and must be retained – we cannot afford to lose talented and skilled workers. Theresa May should reassure them as soon as possible that they will have the right to remain in the UK, to provide much-needed certainty both for EU employees and UK employers.
“The government must also clarify how new EU hires will be treated, as many businesses also say they are uncertain about whether the people they wish to recruit will be able to continue working with them in future. A sensible immigration policy that allows businesses to plug difficult skills gaps should go hand in hand with sustained investment in training UK workers for the jobs of the present and the future.
“Guaranteeing the rights of EU workers is just one of the major issues that the new government needs to make, and quickly. Decisions on airport and rail expansion are long overdue, which along with action on infrastructure investment will be crucial to solidifying business confidence and laying the foundations for UK growth in the coming years.”