Skip to main content
Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

Brexit's impact on recruitment: Five things all recruiters need to be aware of


It might seem like Christmas was ages ago. Between digesting the good (having a Brexit deal), the bad (new lockdown), and the ugly (how do we navigate the massive yet skinny deal), it's hard to believe we are just over two weeks into 2021.

To try to make sense of it all, the REC hosted a Brexit Realities webinar with business partners to share views and answer questions (for those who missed it, you can watch it on-demand here).

Speakers were in unison celebrating the deal which avoided a cliff-edge and having something that will be built on.  But, as reality sinks in, many unanswered questions and unforeseen consequences start to arise. It is, after all, a very unique, one of a kind deal.

Free trade agreement

"Free trade agreements usually exist to facilitate conversion, while this one is there to actually help two parts move further apart" David Slater (Director for Trade, KPMG)

As you might already know, little is covered in terms of services, which make up 80% of our economy. We estimate recruiters alone contributed £42.3bn to the economy in the year to March 2020. The deal is a start. The government now needs to get to work securing future trade in professional services.


There is good news on access to EU markets and travel mobility, with recruiters able to trade and travel without too many restrictions. Nevertheless, certain activities, such as the provision of contractual services suppliers and independent professionals by agencies, for example, mightbe restricted and that might vary depending on the type of activity or the country.

Data sharing

The rules on data are reassuring but the EU is yet to grant data equivalence to the UK. For now, data will continue to flow as normal for up to six months when an agreement needs to be reached (hopefully).

Recognition of professional qualifications

Perhaps the biggest concern now is the lack of mutual recognition of professional qualifications. These will have to be dealt with on a profession-by-profession basis with each member state. This is something we are hopeful will be part of the conversation going forward. In the words of Shara Samra, Senior Policy Advisor at the  CBI:

"Brexit isn't done yet. The priority should be to build on where possible, the deal provided pathways for mutual cooperation in the future".


We also heard from immigration law firm Fragomen on the new immigration system and  sponsorship requirements, including some horizon-scanning on key areas for members: Sponsorship and low skilled visas will be important areas for recruiters this year. These are unresolved issues at the moment and the REC will continue to keep an eye out on your behalf.

Speaking at the webinar both representatives from Fragomen and Experian stressed the importance of employers encouraging their employees to apply to the EU settlement scheme. The latter offers a solution to navigate the challenges of Right to Work checks reducing the burden created both by the pandemic and Brexit.

From 2021 onwards, there's no longer a "one size fits all" for trading with the EU and recruiters should consider their business decisions carefully. There will be significant levels of complexity as we navigate this as the UK is now trading with 27 different member states. The REC is on hand to support members with these new changes.  We will be hosting a webinar with the Department for International Trade (DIT) on 29 January and we encourage members to sign up for it. The DIT can help you to develop an international strategy and the end of the transition period represents a great opportunity to take advantage of that support.

BEIS new video explainers on doing business with Europe

Undoubtedly, businesses will need a lot of hand-holding to navigate our new relationship with the EU,  and relationships (in plural) with each of its countries. Following the change in rules, BEIS has launched a series of new, on demand videos to help you familiarise yourselves with the new rules and the actions arising from them. You can register here to access the video content. The ones on hiring overseas staff, data, providing services and recognition of professional qualifications could be of particular interest, as well as the sector one on services. And, as always, our inboxes are open to your questions. Please contact with any comments and questions you might have - we are here for you.

Webinar: Brexit: how to prepare as recruiters and businesses

Whether you are an SME or multi-brand agency, Brexit will affect your business. In this webinar, we delve into the latest analysis for an overview of the likely impact on the market, settled status for EU nationals,  latest developments on the immigration system and the regulatory impact of Brexit. This will give you the tools to speak with clients and candidates with confidence of what to expect next, as well as what to look out for while the details remain relatively unknown.