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Employment: Brexit continues to disrupt job market
10 September 2021

Coronavirus disruption and Brexit continues to disrupt the job market despite record numbers of staff returning from furlough, the latest statistics have revealed.

If you are an employer, here’s what you need to know.

Employment remains below pre-pandemic levels

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that the number of payroll employees increased by 182,000 to 28.9 million in July 2021 – the latest data available.

But this remains 201,000 below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

Job vacancies also increased to a record high of 953,000 in July, with early estimates for September suggesting that vacancies now top one million for the “first time”.

Commenting on the figures, Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Although the changes to self-isolation rules will help, with many firms facing a more deep-rooted squeeze on labour supply from the impact of COVID and Brexit, staff shortages may persistently weigh on economic activity.”

Number of EU nationals seeking work in the UK falls

The number of EU citizens searching for work in Britain has also fallen by 36 per cent since Brexit.

The figures, published by online jobs board Indeed, suggest that the hospitality, care, and warehouse sectors have been hit the hardest, recording declines of up to 41 per cent.

Around 1.3 million non-UK workers are estimated to have left the UK since late 2019, meanwhile.

Indeed said tough post-Brexit immigration rules are having a greater impact on recruitment than the coronavirus pandemic.

“Lower-paid roles are not receiving the same attention from foreign workers as they did only two years ago. It means domestic workers may be required to fill the gaps,” said Jack Kennedy, a UK economist at Indeed.

“However, with many sectors, including hospitality, already struggling to recruit all the staff they need, higher salaries may be required to attract UK workers to fill those roles.”

Job postings with vaccination requirements “on the rise”

The proportion of job postings per million that require being vaccinated against Covid-19 rose by 34 per cent in August compared to the previous month, figures reveal.

Jobs postings that require vaccinations but don’t specifically mention coronavirus were also up 90 per cent compared to July.

Indeed Economist AnnElizabeth Konkel suggests that employers may be trying to “hedge against the risk of having a sick workforce” in turbulent times.

“Even if you are a 100 per cent remote software engineer, at some point you’re probably going to go to a conference or an offsite retreat or meet your manager for coffee,” she warned.

Rise in “urgent job postings”

According to Indeed, the proportion of job postings including the terms “hiring urgently,” “urgent hire,” “immediate start,” “urgent vacancy” or “start today” increased from 1.6 per cent in January to 2.3 per cent last month. The adverts were primarily posted by employers in sectors such as loading and stocking, food preparation and service, and hospitality and tourism.

The job site said employers may need to consider additional hiring incentives to attract job seekers, such as a sign-on bonus or flexible working.

Driver crisis – the wider impact

The media has been awash with news of goods not hitting the shelves or reaching manufacturers due to a driver crisis.

Estimates suggest that the nation needs an additional 80,000 – 100,000 HGV drivers on the road, and yet many in the haulage industry are reporting difficulties recruiting existing drivers, partly due to many EU citizens returning home.

However, some 60,000 licensed HGV drivers in the UK are thought to be working in other industries and despite significant wage rises and incentives from businesses, unions say many no longer have a desire to work in logistics.

The shortage of drivers is having an impact on the price of goods and materials, as haulage firms pass on the costs of recruitment and retention to customers, who in turn are increasing the price consumers pay for their products and services.

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