Employment law issues seem to be rife with gaps at the moment – we have already reported on the gender pay gap brought to the fore by the gender pay gap reporting regulations which came into force on 6 April 2017. However, it looks like we are now dealing with another gap – the skills gap commentators believe will be brought about when the UK exits the EU. We are, in fact, already seeing the effects of this as potential migrant workers are reluctant to come to the UK at a time of such uncertainty. There is a significant shortage of workers to fill the typical “blue collar” roles such as drivers, electricians, and construction workers. Sectors such as healthcare, retail and construction are amongst those already feeling the squeeze as these are sectors heavily reliant on EU migrant workers. A study by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (“REC”) points out that EU migrants are over-represented in low-skilled jobs, filling 15 per cent of those roles, compared with 7 per cent by non-EU migrants and 78 per cent by Britons.
Furthermore, Brexit has curbed planned growth and investments for one in four SMEs according to the latest ‘UK SME Confidence Index’ from Vistage. This shortage of workers has forced employers to raise starting salaries at the fastest pace in nearly two years during August, the REC’s study further showed. This may not be sustainable in the long-term and could have a detrimental impact on business profitability and sustainability.
In the meantime, automation and digitalisation have been proposed as possible solutions to bridge the gap. Whether machines replacing people is quite what voters intended back in June 2016 when the referendum took place is questionable at best.