The job market in the UK is beginning to stabilize as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have eased, and the much-needed return to normality seems to be in sight. Still, while the rise in job vacancies has been lauded as a sign of recovery by the government, it is tempered by a shortage of suitable workers in several sectors.
Following the easing of lockdown restrictions throughout the UK, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and accounting firm KPMG released their most recent UK Report on Jobs survey, stating that “Permanent staff appointments and temp billings both rose at near-record rates…”. However, the same report concluded that “the availability of candidates continued to decline rapidly in July…”, meaning that although there were job vacancies to fill, there was a lack of candidates to fill these positions.
The hospitality sector is among the most notably impacted by the pandemic. While pubs, restaurants, cafes, and bars were forced to shut, roughly 660,000 jobs were lost in the UK’s hospitality sector, according to UK Hospitality Chief, Katie Nicholls. As the industry now seeks to bounce back, venues have found themselves unable to find staff to replace those who lost their jobs. This challenge comes as the sector also struggles with the impact of Brexit on the job market.
Brexit signalled an end to the Freedom of Movement within the EU and consequently led to the relocation of many overseas workers. Combined with travel restrictions and a perception that foreign workers are unwelcome in the UK, a sizeable employment gap has been left in the hospitality sector.
At the time of writing, perhaps the most pertinent skill shortage affecting the UK is a lack of qualified heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers. “Several factors have exacerbated the shortage which is now at crisis point (over 100,000)…”, a figure that prior to the pandemic was closer to 60,000, says the Road Haulage Association (RHA). As with the hospitality sector, the fallout from the pandemic contributed to the crisis as overseas drivers forced to return home have been unable to return to the UK because of travel restrictions.
Similarly, the UK’s departure from the EU has inflamed the situation. Uncertainty over the rights of workers to live and work in the UK has prompted drivers to return to their home countries. Of the 600,000 HGV drivers employed in the UK, roughly 60,000 were from EU member states, a figure that provides a stark illustration of the problems facing the UK as a result of the Pandemic and Brexit. Furthermore, the added burdens of cost and timing of recruiting and training HGV drivers suggest that the issue will not be resolved quickly.
The transportation sector is also facing the challenge of an aging workforce. The Office for National Statistics (UK) notes that of the 275,000 HGV drivers employed within the UK between April 2020 and March 2021, only 5,000 drivers were aged 16 to 24. A staggering 122,000 were aged 50 to 64, and 14,000 were 65 and over. This study showed that 45% of HGV drivers operating in the UK will be at the retirement age in the next five to 10 years.
The effects of the HGV driver’s shortage have now become apparent to the British public. It is seen through disruptions to food supply chains, shortages in fuel – leading to mass panic as people are left fearing they would be unable to buy gasoline – and empty store shelves. The British army is assisting with the resupply of gasoline to local filling stations, illustrating the severity of the situation.
In an attempt to address the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK, the government recently announced the introduction of a temporary visa scheme. Initial reports suggest that HGV drivers will be granted at least 5,000 visas and a further 5,500 visas will be granted for poultry workers. Law firm Walker Morris reports that “…300 fuel drivers will be able to arrive in the UK immediately… and stay to work until the end of March 2022.” This relief will provide the fuel sector with some much-needed reinforcement and will hopefully provide the building blocks to tackle the long-term problem of skill shortages.
How Can Elements Help?
These temporary visas can be complex to navigate, even for HR teams with a wealth of experience. It is essential that when an organization offers a temporary visa, they do so legally and in compliance with local labor and tax laws. By partnering with Elements, you will have access to our Global Mobility & Visa Solutions.
Our team of lawyers come with a wealth of experience, as do our immigration experts, both will be able to advise, organize and ultimately deliver your employees, on temporary contracts, to the target market in complete compliance with all local requirements. Our Global Mobility & Visa Team has the expertise to completely manage all aspects of your immigration and global mobility requirements, while ensuring compliance at all times.
We will support you and your employees throughout the entire process, acting as an extension of your HR team. Our dedicated team of professionals will guide you through the four states of each assignment:
Our ground-breaking technology, ApprovPay, streamlines the processes involved in global payroll, enabling you to hire anyone, anywhere, any time!
About Elements Global Services
Elements Global Services is a global tech firm, focused on software that is built to go beyond country borders and simplify a company’s ability to expand their business, onboard employees, manage compliance and pay globally. Headquartered in Chicago, Elements offers customers 100% direct Employer of Record services in over 160 countries, powered by proprietary HR technology that simplifies everything from payroll, benefits and human capital management to HR outsourcing, local compliance, and visa & mobility.