Recruiters report business as usual since Brexit vote

The UK is experiencing a skills shortage due to a decrease in EU nationals seeking employment

The professional jobs market has not been materially affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU according to the most recent data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), with almost three quarters (74%) of recruiters reporting that business was the same or better than before the vote in the weeks following Brexit.

When asked how business changed in the four weeks after the vote compared to the four weeks pre-referendum, more than half (56%) had witnessed no change, around one in five (19%) said business was worse, while roughly the same amount (18%) reported that business was better.

The results are based on the responses of 145 professional recruitment leaders collected throughout July and August during a project designed to gauge the immediate impact of the Brexit vote on the UK’s professional recruitment sector. Around 80% of respondents reported that they had voted to remain in the EU and 15% had voted to leave. The remaining 7% preferred not to say.

Around a third of respondents (32%) reported that, overall, EU legislation has been advantageous for their business and the wider sector – with a similar proportion (27%) believing that it has had a negative impact. When asked to list aspects of EU legislation that they believe should be amended post Article 50, 40% said Agency Workers Regulations with the Working Time Directive and bonus caps both also featuring highly.

Overall, participants were largely positive about the prospects for the UK recruitment sector in the short term, with 44% citing that they were optimistic for the next two years. By comparison, just 20% said they were pessimistic, with the remaining 36% remaining neutral.

The research also revels the challenges and opportunities that senior professionals foresee will be created following the ‘Leave’ vote. More than half (55%) said less red tape would create business opportunities, with a similar amount (57%) looking forward to the reform of unhelpful EU derived legislation. Almost 75% of respondents reported that an increase in demand for contractors would be an important opportunity for their business. Although, interestingly, the research simultaneously found that 20% of respondents reported that contract business was worse in the four weeks after referendum. This is compared to 18% of respondents who found that overall business was worse during the same period.

When quizzed on notable post-Brexit risks, 94% cited a potential economic downturn, 86% feared clients hiring less permanent staff and 83% were worried about less access to talent. Furthermore, 37% of respondents said they believe that Brexit will affect their ability to source talent in the next two years and more than half (51%) believe the referendum result will have an impact on access to talent in the medium-term (two to five years).

In light of the findings, Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, commented: “Following the positive economic benchmarking data that has been made available in recent weeks, the results of our survey are not altogether unsurprising. Despite the fact that the majority of respondents voted to remain, it seems like, for now, it’s ‘business as usual’ within the professional jobs market.

“Until Article 50 is triggered we are very much in limbo, which perhaps explains why the recruitment profession is acutely aware of potential challenges associated with Brexit. However, alongside these perceived risks, also come opportunities – most notability the potential overhaul of burdensome EU legislation. As a trade body that exclusively represents organisations within the professional recruitment sector, we continuously lobby Government to ensure that the interests of our members are protected. The current landscape offers an opportunity for us to encourage a new regulatory framework that differentiates skilled professionals by positioning them outside of ‘one size fits all’ regulation aimed at protecting unskilled workers. It is crucial that the Government consults with representative bodies in the professional recruitment sector as EU-derived laws are replaced by, or recreated into, British statute. One of the UK’s main differentiators from the rest of Europe is the flexibility of its labour market. Post-Brexit, it is now more crucial than ever that we don’t introduce unnecessary barriers to growth.”