How will Brexit affect recruitment?

Brexit; the second hottest topic of 2018 (does GDPR ring any bells?). Following the EU referendum that took place in 2016, it has been decided that the UK will leave the EU on the 29th March 2019. So, what does this mean to employers and employees? 

The Secretary of State, The Rt Hon Esther McVey, invited our Director Chloe Brassey to a roundtable along with six other recruitment experts to discuss just this; recruitment challenges arising from Brexit and the changing nature of working in the UK. These were the key takeaways.


One of the first items to be discussed around the table was that the UK workforce and the recruitment sector are undoubtedly facing challenges, however the only thing we seem to know for sure, is that no one knows for sure! This limbo mode we are currently in is a huge issue and creates uncertainty; neither employers nor the population of approximately 3.7 million EU born in the UK are clear on what will happen once the UK has actually left the EU.

The uncertainty is likely to make employers risk averse, and some of our clients have expressed that they are hesitant to hire in the current climate.

Chloe Brassey

That being said, the government recently unveiled a settlement scheme which EU nationals can apply for to stay in Britain after Brexit. This status would giving them the right to remain and work in the UK indefinitely.

Increased demand for temporary staff

At Four Seasons Recruitment we have seen a significant increase in demand for temporary staff within the luxury retail sector since Brexit was confirmed.

This increase may well be a result of employers holding off hiring permanent staff until the end of March next year, in particularly EU citizens. The use of contract, temporary and part-time workers is a cost-effective way for businesses to tackle increased demand in the interim.

Another reason for the spike in demand for temporary staff within retail could have been a result of the British Pound dropping in value just after the referendum. This in turn meant overseas shoppers came to the UK and bought luxury goods at a lower price. Therefore, more staff were needed on the shop floor.

Flat job market

It’s important to remember that not just foreign workers will be affected by Brexit; the job market might slow down considerably overall. Permanently employed nationals might be reluctant to change jobs if it turns out less alternative roles are available.

Skills shortages

It was agreed during the discussion that we find ourselves in a candidate driven market where there are skills shortages, most certainly in the luxury retail and fashion sectors. A commonly reported complaint by many organisations, according to the Parliament, is that recruitment of foreign workers (both from the EU and beyond) is a consequence of skill shortages within the UK workforce. The British Fashion Council has made a similar statement:

There is a real shortage of skilled workers in Britain, forcing companies to recruit from the EU in order to source the highest quality candidates. Many businesses look first to the UK, however the skills at the level required aren’t currently available.

Bridge the gap

Businesses, recruiters and the government need to figure out how to meet future skill needs, and collectively challenge the way employers think around attracting candidates. One solution could be more paid internships to be made available, as it is challenging to afford doing unpaid internships in London to get the experience required to get a job. The British Fashion Council states in their Future of Fashion report:

Where gaps exist, action must be taken to fill them, for example through carefully designed apprenticeship programmes. From top to bottom, and at all levels of technical ability, our fashion education system needs to be marching in step with the needs of our fashion industry.

Chloe raised the point at the roundtable that there are concerns that some roles within the fashion and retail industries are not made attractive to school, college or university leavers. Therefore, the government needs to look at ways of making these opportunities more appealing to avoid skills shortages occurring after Brexit.

The conclusion

In summary, the impact of Brexit is still unknown, however what is clear from this discussion is that the government are keen to seek advice and understand the concerns from industry experts, in order to help soften the impact of Brexit.