Short-term labour for long-term growth: EU agency workers post-Brexit

A strong economy underpins rising living standards for British people – it delivers more opportunities to us as employees, and more choice and value to us as shoppers. Such economic strength is built on companies being able to do great business from the UK. Ensuring businesses have the capacity to invest and grow here is vital.


And with employment rates at record highs, making sure firms have access to the people they need to keep delivering for customers is a critical issue for investment decisions.


In this report - Short-term labour for long-term growth: EU agency workers post-Brexit - we look into the role that EU citizens play in supporting employers on a temporary basis. In key sectors like food and drinks, hospitality, and logistics the report shows that their impact is considerable – especially as these sectors are struggling to fill all their vacancies even before Brexit day.


What do we know about the number of EU nationals working as temp or seasonal workers in the UK?

The overall picture is that we rely on EU workers and the number of them coming to the UK is declining, but we don’t know exactly how many fill temporary and seasonal jobs in the UK.

  • Seven per cent

    The best available statistics suggest there were approximately 2.3 million EU nationals employed in the UK in the first quarter of 2018, making up approximately seven per cent of the total 32.3 million UK labour force.

  • Net migration

    EU net migration for the year to June 2016 stood at 189,000 whereas latest provisional figures for the year ending September 2017 stood at 90,000. This is being driven by both fewer EU citizens coming into the UK and more choosing to leave.

  • Business uncertainty

    Of particular concern for UK businesses including those that employ temporary EU workers is the steep reduction in the number of EU citizens coming to the UK to look for work.

  • Lack of data

    But for those industries that rely on both permanent and temporary workers, including seasonal workers, there are currently no official data sources that provide a complete picture of the size of each industry’s labour market and the role of migrants within these.

Some sectors rely heavily on temporary workers

For example, the number of temporary workers in accommodation and food services has increased significantly in the last few years, from 115,225 in 2011 to 162,042 in 2016. Non-permanent staff make up approximately 10 per cent of the total workforce in the sector.

  • Four in five

    employers who create temporary and seasonal work say they have used EU workers for those roles.

  • Nearly two thirds

    say at least one in ten of their contingent workforce was from the EU.

  • One in ten

    reported that at least half of their seasonal and temporary labour was from the EU.

  • More than four in ten

    employers say they had not been able to find enough workers to fill all the seasonal or temporary roles they had.

Find out more in the full report


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