The supply of EU labour has been vital for many sectors of the UK economy, which have traditionally been unattractive to the core UK labour market. Without these EU workers, many businesses would have simply struggled to operate effectively or profitably. From construction to food processing through to retail and hospitality – all have benefited from the supply of EU labour over the last 15 years.
This supply of work permit-free labour ends in January and whilst EU individuals who are already in the UK can continue to live and work in the UK from January onwards, the pandemic and the related lockdowns have resulted in many EU Nationals returning to their home locations. Whilst many EU nationals have returned to their countries of origin on a temporary basis it is not clear how many of these EU citizens will be returning to the UK once the lockdown ends and the UK economy starts to ‘re-open’.
If those EU citizens who have traditionally worked in the UK don’t return here at the same time as the UK restricts new EU immigration, businesses in sectors such as hospitality will struggle to recruit staff when the recovery comes.
Understandably, this hasn’t been the focus of businesses in these sectors at the present time, as many businesses are simply focused on surviving at the present time and managing cash flow. However, the immigration options are not suitable and they will not be a realistic option for many smaller employers in these sectors of the economy. It is therefore important for these employers to start considering what options they do have from a practical perspective to try and ensure that they have sufficient employees once the lockdown ends.