As we head into summer, we are still no closer to a decision on Brexit. Understandably recruiters, their clients and workers are concerned about what the future holds. This is a specific challenge for those operating in the industrial sector where EU workers make up a significant proportion of the workforce and staffing shortages are intensifying month-on-month according to our REC/KPMG Report on Jobs. At the same time, driving compliance and effective enforcement within the sector remains a priority.
The latest meeting of the REC Industrial Sector was an opportunity for REC members to take stock and exchange views with leading experts on immigration and government enforcement, including Paul Elms from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and Gemma James from Fragomen UK. Below are three key messages to emerge from these latest discussions:
- Supporting EU workers is an immediate priority - The industrial sector has a high number of workers from the EU; they drive our lorries, pack our boxes and pick our fruit. Many of these workers have been in the UK for several years. The government has announced a settlement scheme to help EU citizens apply to remain in the UK post the 2021 transition period and the REC have been partnering with immigration specialists Fragomen to ensure that recruiters can support their workers through this process. Being ahead of the game on settled status issues can provide a significant differentiator for recruiters in the sector.
- We have a shared agenda on compliance and enforcement - The National Crime Agency recorded 2156 potential victims of trafficking and exploitation in the first 3 months of 2019 alone – an increase of 10% on the previous 3-month period. Recruiters and their clients have an important role to play by spotting and reporting the signs of modern slavery and labour abuse. This is particularly relevant as the GLAA has seen a rise in modern slavery in supply chains, manufacturing, industry and agriculture. The concern is that staffing shortages could result in a burgeoning black economy. Flexibility and good work go hand in hand but we must remain on the front foot and work closely with government and end users to ensure compliant recruitment supply chains.
- Other external factors are at play - The Government’s Good Work Plan will impact on recruiters with the introduction of a key information document before sign-up, the ending of Swedish derogation contracts and changing the holiday pay reference period (from 12 to 52 weeks) from April 2020. The government also plans to roll out IR35 in the private sector in April 2020. Whilst we don’t yet have finalised legislation and are calling for a further delay, the proposed timetable is tight so preparation now is key. The political and regulatory landscape may be getting evermore uncertain, but the REC’s core aim is to support our members, including dedicated member hubs covering various upcoming and proposed changes to the labour market, immigration and tax.
As well as focusing on immediate challenges, priorities for the REC going forward include changing the way clients work with their recruitment partners through our wide-ranging Good Recruitment Campaign and positioning our voice on longer-term jobs market challenges such as automation, productivity and inclusion through our Future of Jobs Observatory and our series of thought leadership white papers.
If you believe your company has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to developing its staff, social responsibility, or is just fantastic to work for then you should consider entering the IRP awards, go to www.irpawards.com/enter
If you would like to find out more about our Industrial Sector, would like the slides from the session or have any of the questions about the topics in this blog then email Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org