First and foremost, clarity on the status of their existing workforcesby Heather Rolfe / March 3, 2017 / Leave a comment
All eyes next week will be on the standoff between the Lords and the government over the safeguarding of rights for the three million EU citizens currently living in the UK.
It is of course this group which will be most affected by the outcome in the end. But the business owners who employ them will be concerned also, not just about the current dispute but about all future immigration arrangements.
In the days immediately following the referendum I spoke to many employers as part of on-going research at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) on Brexit’s impact on employers—particularly in sectors which play a key role in Britain’s economy. Four days after the Leave vote, a construction employer described his state of mind: “I feel like I’m in a dark room, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Eight months later, very similar feelings were expressed by a hotelier: “There’s a complete void of any information…. It feels like you’re fumbling around in the dark.”
Like many employers I’ve spoken to since June, she had made little progress in planning for a post-Brexit future. Most employers now seem to accept that free movement will end, in light of statements to this effect by Theresa May in January: “Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver.”
But employers are still none the wiser on what “control” might look like, nor have they any clarity on the status of the UK’s current 2.3m EU workers: a resolution of the dispute between peers and the government cannot come soon enough.
Various government enquiries are collecting the views of employers and their representative bodies, for example the Economic Affairs Committee inquiry on Brexit and Labour Market, and there is no doubt much campaigning behind the scenes. But it’s worth registering the views of employers in sectors which particularly depend on EU migrants. What are their preferences for future immigration policies and what are their concerns? Our interviews and focus-group research have found these to be as clear as government policy is fuzzy.
Employers urgently want clarity on the status of their existing workforces
As far as employers are concerned, the status of…