Chichester Accountants

Recruitment Struggles for SMEs

We have recently noticed a trend in feedback when speaking to clients and other local businesses, with both groups suggesting that recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult. In particular, we are repeatedly hearing of a dearth of workers from across Europe, most notably Eastern Europe. But despite the ongoing Brexit saga, employers do not believe this to be the sole reason for fewer European workers.

The reality is that in several countries around Europe, economies are on the rise and it has therefore become just as financially beneficial to return home as work in the UK, in addition to the obvious benefits of proximity to family and friends. For skilled workers that have made the UK home in the last decade, they are now able to return home with broader experience, increased financial stability and in many cases a network of contacts. Having repatriated, they are finding suitably skilled work easier to come by and increasingly in keeping with UK salary rates, whilst enjoying a lower cost of living.

Speaking to one client last week, she commented that she had also lost staff due to the availability of grant support with one former employee having secured €25,000 from their Government. The funding is being offered to nationals of a handful of Eastern European countries keen to start up on their own. The result was that having lost one member of her team, others were inspired and followed.

The grant funds, which are a specific incentive to repatriate valuable skills and labour following an extended period of one-way traffic to the UK, appear to be working. However, their gain is our loss and companies are now having to work harder to find skilled workers or keep vacancies open longer.

This wave of voluntary repatriation comes in addition to the ongoing uncertainty over rights for EU workers post Brexit, leaving the mid-term recruitment situation looking challenging for UK employers. Further anecdotal evidence suggests that whilst we have benefited from a ready supply of non-UK workers for many years, as a country we may have taken our eye off the need to develop home grown talent, leaving a potential recruitment gap until the market can correct itself.