London retail sector reports serious recruitment concerns post-Brexit

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A national survey of over 900 retail and restaurant managers has revealed there are serious concerns in the capital about an ability to recruit staff if the supply of EU nationals comes to an end post-Brexit.  The research, conducted by Retail Human Resources (RHR), a London-based recruitment firm specialising in the retail sector, found that in London there are strong concerns with some managers stating that they do not think they can run their business without being able to recruit from the EU.  

The survey asked 235 London-based retail managers how they will cope without EU immigrants, of which 53 of these said it will become difficult to the extent that it will damage their business; 51 said it will be more difficult but they will just about cope; and 22 said it will be virtually impossible to survive.

Nationally there is mixed picture with 32 per cent of all retail and hospitality managers reporting little or no concern. However, 30 per cent said they were ‘just about managing’ when asked how difficult they are finding it to recruit sales floor or serving staff now. 

“The problem is exacerbated by existing EU residents returning home, in many cases because they feel unwelcome post Brexit. The weakening pound and lack of clarity about future immigration rules is putting off some EU nationals from taking up roles in the UK,” comments Peter Burgess, Director at RHR.

These findings coincide with recent research by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation which found employers saw the sharpest fall in the availability of workers to fill their vacancies in 16 months. In addition, recruitment companies reported a drop in the number of European Union nationals available to work in sectors such as retail, food manufacturing and healthcare.

Peter adds: “If, as expected the Conservatives win the next election they have vowed to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands.  Presumably this will be through a visa system similar to non EU citizens now.  Whilst health care professionals and a variety of skilled labour will still come it seems very unlikely that much provision will be allocated to what are perceived to be, unskilled labour to work in shops, restaurants and hotels.”

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