How acute are the UK’s labor shortages now, a year after Brexit?

January 5, 2022 |

Image: Getty

The year 2021, the first since Brexit, saw a flood of concerns about labor shortages from all sectors of the economy.

Despite the fact that the coronavirus outbreak has had a significant impact, sectors that relied on EU labor mobility prior to Brexit appear to have suffered the most.

Many Europeans have returned to their home countries — as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown and limitations, as well as the imposition of Brexit.

EU nationals no longer receive preferential treatment under the UK’s new immigration laws; instead, a new points-based system is geared to attract talented workers.

‘Absolutely horrible’ year in hospitality

The Rubens at the Palace is a five-star hotel that overlooks Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence. However, it, like many other hotels, pubs, and restaurants, has had difficulty finding personnel.

Customers expecting lunch have been turned away since the hotel restaurant has been forced to close due to a lack of staff.

The combination of Brexit and COVID, according to general manager Malcolm Hendry, is the “greatest storm” he’s ever seen in his 30-year career.

“Not being able to recruit from the whole of Europe when we’ve been used to doing that for many years previously is really at the root of where the challenge exists,” he told Euronews.

“It would certainly be my vote that we go back to being able to recruit across open markets, being able to bring back and bring in new people, new faces into our industry to really allow myself and so many industry colleagues to get back to having staff and team numbers to the same levels as pre-COVID.”

Horticulture: ‘The biggest issue is staff’ 

Prior to Brexit, British agriculture was especially reliant on the free movement of EU employees.

According to statistics presented to parliament by the National Farmers Union (NFU), nearly all of the 70,000 seasonal workers in fruit picking and vegetable harvesting in 2017 were from Eastern Europe. The Migration Advisory Committee reported the next year that 99 percent of seasonal agricultural laborers were from EU countries.

Many people have returned home. In March, Kevin Haynes, a farm manager in northern England, told Euronews that the majority of his daffodil crop went unpicked.

“The biggest issue is staff,” he said. “We would have had 100-150 people today picking — and it is down to, what, 25 now, because they’re just not coming over.”

Meat & Dairy industry: ‘The pig sector is in crisis’ 

Due to a paucity of drivers and abattoir personnel in the UK pig business, there was a backlog of animals becoming fat on farms. Many had to be weeded out.

In October, Gloucestershire farmer Sophie Hope told Euronews, “There are so many pigs backed up on the farm and there’s nowhere else to put them.”

The government said the following month that up to 800 new temporary visas for foreign butchers would be approved, allowing them to work in the UK for six months. However, in December, a Home Office minister informed a parliamentary committee that “fewer than 100” people had applied.

“The UK pig sector is still in meltdown as worker shortages continue to impact our ability to process the number of pigs we already have on farms. The entire food supply chain and government must pull together and resolve the backlog now or we will have no independent pig producers left” said Dr Zoe Davies, Chief Executive of the National Pig Association.

Read full article HERE.

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