Recruiters have adapted their operations to respond to the fluid demand of the pandemic. Here’s what some our members have done to respond to a changing labour market:
In response, the REC has set out a number of asks for both government and business to help solve this crisis:
Set up a new cross-government and industry forum including BEIS, DfE and DWP.
Whilst we are pleased that government has set up a cross departmental group internally – to be effective, this group must include industry experts. This would restore the importance of workforce planning in the economic debate between business, government, and other stakeholders.
This will enable government to make informed decisions based on what businesses are seeing on the ground, with the aim of building a resilient internal workforce, bearing in mind the constrains faced by each sector and how those can be alleviated by incentives, training and overseas recruitment as needed, both in the short and long-term.
Allow flexibility in the points-based immigration system and a visa route for low skilled workers.
This would allow firms in the worst-affected sector, like logistics, to access staff at times of pressing need.
For some sectors, as an immediate solution, this could be sector specific and follow the same format of the Seasonal Agricultural Visa Scheme. This would enable sectors heavily reliant in overseas labour to phase out that reliance and retrain the internal workforce without a cliff edge.
This ask is aligned with the Immigration White Paper from 2018, which included a: "a new time limited route for temporary short-term workers of all skill levels, including seasonal low-skilled workers"
Other asks that could partially alleviate the issues are:
- An immediate review of the Shortage Occupation List to include occupations such as HGV drivers would also help alleviate some of the pressure.
- An awareness campaign on EU Settlement Scheme rights, especially in terms of overstays overseas: government's guidance on this was updated only in June 2021, there could be some EU citizens that might be able to return to the UK but are unaware of their current rights.
Broaden the apprenticeship levy and increase funding for training at lower skill levels.
This would improve progression and transition opportunities for lower-skilled and temporary workers who need them most and encourage business to do more here in the UK, not less.
Currently a lot of the training on offer is for level 3 and above, while shortages are in every skills level and aggravated at lower skilled.
There are also particularities in some industries with workers following peaks elsewhere and project-based hiring, who cannot benefit from yearlong high restrictive training.
Increase focus from businesses on workforce planning, staff engagement, attraction and retention policies.
Firms need to raise workforce planning up to the senior leadership level, and work with key professional partners like recruiters to boost performance, productivity and staff wellbeing.
One example is the poor conditions of roadside facilities that have a direct impact in the demographics of the sector, with young people and women staying away, which has an impact on diversity.xibility in the points-based immigration system and a visa route for low skilled workers.
Allow flexibility in the points-based immigration system and a visa route for low skilled workers