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How to attract talent to the UK post-Brexit

Since the Brexit referendum in 2016, EU net immigration to the UK has fallen, resulting in a 77% decline by 2019. However, EU workers still made up around 8% of the UK workforce at this time.

On 1st January 2021, a new immigration system came into place, focusing on skills, with anyone wishing to move to the UK needing to pass a points threshold, primarily based on their salary and qualifications. Leaving the EU also stopped the freedom of movement of people between the UK and EU, meaning EU nationals would now need to meet the requirements to move to the UK for work.

The immigration changes have left many companies, particularly those who have historically relied on EU labour, concerned about skills gaps within their operations. The size of this issue is likely to become more apparent once the EU Settlement Scheme ends in June, with anyone without appropriate status under the scheme facing the inability to remain and work in the UK.

Despite the obstacles being presented by changing immigration rules and patterns, it is vital that companies can access the skills they need to operate at their optimal levels. This means continuing to attract talent to your company from anywhere in the world and adapting your recruitment strategies.

This guide discusses how you can attract candidates globally to your business, even in the post-Brexit climate.

Ensure roles comply with the immigration system

The first step to attracting talent is ensuring they will be able to move smoothly to the UK, which means complying with the points-based immigration system.

Under the system, candidates must achieve a minimum of 70 points. Fifty of these must be awarded by having an annual salary of £20,480 or over, speaking adequate English and filling a role above a certain skill-level (A-level equivalent). The final 20 points can be awarded over many factors, such as earning above £25,600 or having a PhD.

When crafting specifications for a vacancy, you must consider the requirements of the immigration system and tailor the role so that it enables candidates to pass them, such as providing a sufficient salary. It is worth noting that points can be awarded for those filling shortage occupations, which may provide some flexibility to industries facing a skills gap.

By aligning vacancies to the points-based system, you will support potential candidates to enter the UK and fulfil the role, allowing you to recruit talent globally and removing logistical barriers.

Another requirement for any firm wishing to recruit overseas is that they have a sponsorship licence. Any job offers to candidates outside of the UK need to be sponsored to comply with immigration rules. By sponsoring an individual, you approve that person to come to the UK and indicate that they will be working for you once they arrive. The licence will enable you to do this.

Licences come in two forms:

  • Workers – for long-term jobs you want to fulfil.
  • Temporary workers – for short-term roles, ranging between 6 months and two years depending on the job being filled.

If you do not already have a licence, you will need to apply for one before you sponsor any job offers. Applications take around eight weeks. You will also need to provide evidence (such as VAT certificates or premise ownership documents) to prove your business is genuine. The licence costs between £536 and £1,476, depending on what you are applying for and your business’s size.

Once you have the relevant licence in place, you are free to approach foreign candidates and sponsor their move to the UK to work for you.

Highlight yourself as an employer of choice

For job seekers, there are likely to be many roles out there – some of which may be closer to home than yours. So, it is vital to convince them that you are an employer of choice to make the prospect of moving to the UK seem worthwhile.

Be sure to highlight the benefits of working for your company. This might be through a generous remuneration package and other benefits, such as healthcare, but it may also go beyond this. For example, demonstrating a friendly culture and room for progression may be critical criteria candidates search for before accepting a role.

Remember to address the specific concerns overseas candidates may have. Some may fear they are unwelcome in the UK following Brexit, so this is a barrier employers may need to overcome. So, focus on your company’s social side too, allowing candidates to see how they may make friends and feel at home in a new country.

Part of this involves showcasing the UK as a working location of choice, with you an employer of choice based there. Focus on the opportunities available here, as well as local information about where your company is based. By creating a favourable view of the UK and what is on offer here, you will be much more likely to compel overseas talent to make the move.

Refine retention strategies

Once you have filled a role in your business, it is critical to keep it filled. If staff decide to leave, it puts you back at square one and having to re-recruit the position. By having robust retention strategies, you can prevent this from happening.

You may already have retention tactics in place in your company, focused on progression, salary and other benefits. If you are employing labour from overseas, it is essential to refine this for their individual needs.

One of the most significant steps you can take is to ensure a diverse culture across the workplace. This includes offering equal opportunities for all staff and embedding inclusive social events to bring employees together. By doing this, you will welcome new members into the team and allow candidates to feel comfortable, particularly if they hail from elsewhere in the world and may feel unfamiliar.

Effective retention strategies offer sizeable benefits, including reduced recruitment costs, limited disruption and increased staff satisfaction, which can assist future recruitment, so getting it right is essential.

Don’t limit yourself

Finally, it is crucial not to limit yourself when it comes to recruitment. Now, more than ever, there is a level playing field when it comes to the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world, meaning you can access talent from anywhere in the world.

If you have previously relied on EU labour and find yourself experiencing a skills shortage, it is worth considering recruiting from other countries in the world – particularly as immigration from these areas is increasing. Similarly, it might be worth considering domestic candidates to bypass the immigration system requirements.

By casting a wide net across the world, you will enable your company to find the very best talent available and recruit the right candidates into your roles. With this, you will experience better results, making it a win-win for everyone.

Get advice

Leaving the EU has posed many challenges for UK firms, with the true impact on immigration likely to emerge in the coming months, following the EU Settlement Scheme deadline.

While many businesses may be anxious about skills shortages that could impact their business, there is opportunity. By accounting for the points-based system and refining your recruitment strategies accordingly, you will still be able to tap into the labour you need for your operations to run smoothly.

If you need support in adapting your recruitment strategies or understanding the implications of points-based immigration and the EUSS, we are here to help.

Our team of advisors can take you through the rules and how they align with your unique needs to create contingency plans that minimise the effect. With this, you can enjoy minimal disruption and adapt to the challenges of Brexit.