The STS Food Safety Panel: Brexit – Will You Be Able to Get The Staff? With just a matter of months to go until the UK officially leaves the EU, there’s still plenty of uncertainty over what it will mean for the food industry. In the second blog in our Brexit series, we take a look at why staffing concerns are high on the list, as companies worry whether they’ll be able to keep existing migrant workers and attract new talent when they need it. Maintaining current staffing levels There are so many aspects of the food industry reliant on migrant workers that a deal where their best interests aren’t protected will be a big problem for the sector.
A new white paper from the STS Food Safety Panel, titled
Brexit: A Challenge or Opportunity for the UK Food Industry, considers how the free movement of workers will impact food companies. The group is made up of experts from across the industry, including Ikea, Wagamama and Allergen Accreditation, and identifies staffing as one of the biggest issues the sector will face.
It notes that the UK is now a less attractive place to work, not least because of the falling value of sterling and the uncertainty over EU migrants’ status after Brexit.
Do we need migrant workers?
The University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory estimates that in 2017, more than 40% of food and drink processing workers were born in EU countries. This is a significant proportion of the workforce that may be inaccessible come March 29th next year.
There has already been a rise in the number of workers reporting they’ll return home – or look for work in other EU countries – once Brexit comes into force. This could lead to a significant skills gap unless safeguards are put in place to give companies access to the talent they need.
One piece of good news is that under current legislation, EU citizens who are already working and living in the UK will be able to stay. There is also potential for more migrants to relocate here during the two-year transition period.
However, this will only be a short-term fix, especially if migration rules become stricter in the coming years.
Looking to the future
It’s not just existing migrant workers that have the potential to create a problem for the food industry. Will companies be able to access the talent they need to continue as normal?
A recent report from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) indicated that Brexit could open up the UK to a wider pool of talent. It recommended there “should be no preference given to EU citizens”, or those from the European Economic Area. Instead, workers need to be employed based on merit rather than their nationality.
Migrant workers have made a big difference to the food industry to-date, but could Brexit give the UK an even more diverse workforce? Only time will tell.
Download your free copy of the white paper here for an impartial look at the key issues and practical advice on how your business can prepare itself for the transition, or phone one of our team members on 08450 50 40 60.