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Recruiters ‘expect Brexit to boost contractor demand’, ADVANCE reveals

Recruiters have serious concerns over Brexit but believe it will boost demand for contractors and temporary workers, a survey has found.

The poll, by ADVANCE, also revealed that most recruiters want the next government to prioritise access to the single market over reducing immigration in the Brexit negotiations.

Key findings from the survey of more than 100 recruitment professionals include:

  • Most respondents (55%) thought Brexit will have either a slightly negative or very negative impact on them as a recruiter and the UK recruitment industry in general. That’s compared to 26% who anticipated a positive impact and 14% who think there will be no change.
  • A majority (52%) said they hadn’t noticed a change in levels of demand for contractors since the June 2016 referendum, with 27% reporting increased demand and 21% experiencing a decrease.
  • Some 35% predicted contractor demand will tick along at current levels during the Brexit negotiations (between now and March 2019), with 20% saying they weren’t sure.
  • In contrast, 42% expected demand for contractors to increase once the UK has left the European Union, compared to just 15% who anticipate a fall.
  • A massive 73% of recruiters wanted whichever party that forms the next government to focus on maintaining tariff-free access to the single market, rather than reducing immigration (27%), during the divorce talks with Brussels.
  • Asked about the potential impact of a hard Brexit on the availability of EU migrant workers, 55% said this would be a concern compared to 45% who expressed no concern.

Recruiters who participated in the survey supply contractors and temporary staff to a wide range of sectors including engineering, IT & technology, construction, finance and banking, aerospace, manufacturing and education. 

One recruiter, who expressed grave concerns about Brexit, said, “A competitive UK in a global business market needs flexibility through contractors and migrant workers to support skills shortages in permanent and contract markets.”

Another voiced concerns over the practicalities and details of working life in post-Brexit Britain, saying, “I am partly responsible for visa handling at our company and this will rise tenfold. People will be less inclined to work here or in Europe on short contracts in my opinion.”

One recruitment business is reportedly, “currently feeling the pinch as many workers are worried about Brexit”, while one exasperated senior recruiter at a different agency asked, “Why would we, as a country, want to narrow our choices of candidates to those who live in the UK?”

A financial services recruiter expressed concerns that France and Germany, “will use Brexit to woo financial institutions to relocate to their countries, which could have a devastating impact.”

Other comments include:

  • “Any restrictions on the admission of qualified workers to the UK in our field (transport and logistics) would have a catastrophic effect on the ability of producers and retailers to get their goods to market.”
  • “As recruiters we are at the sharp end of the economy as we feel the pain first. Skills are hard to find and blocking those skills is the wrong thing to do.”
  • “I would like to see better rules on immigration so we can attract and hire the best of the best internationally and not be limited to 'easy' visa decisions.” 
  • “If there is an exodus of financial services roles to Germany and elsewhere it will be limited in my opinion to some back-middle office roles – not the mass exodus being bandied around –  and I have no doubt the Fintech space will more than make up for any shortfall in employment numbers.” 

Shaun Critchley, managing director at ADVANCE, said, “Our findings show that if Brexit is a problem for recruiters, then contractors are very much part of the solution.

“The consensus seems to be that the labour market has been ticking along pretty much as normal since the referendum and will continue to do so until we have actually left the EU.

“It’s at this point – with the anticipated restrictions on immigration – that recruiters expect to see a spike in contract and temporary hires.

“With Brexit talks due to start just 11 days after the general election, it’s important that whoever leads the negotiations for the UK listens to the concerns and wishes of the staffing industry.

“Recruiters are on the front line of the labour market and have a better understanding than most of the challenges we face in terms of skills and hiring.”

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