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Chambers demand action on safeguards for EU workers

05 September 2016

On the day that Parliament returns from summer recess, the British Chambers of Commerce has released the results of a survey of more than 800 UK businesses who employ EU staff, revealing that more than two fifths of companies report their EU employees have expressed concern over their future residency status following the vote to leave the European Union.

 The survey, undertaken a month after the referendum vote, shows that a small number of businesses (five per cent) have seen EU employees resign already following the June 23 vote, while ten per cent of businesses have reported that their EU employees have stated their intention to leave the UK.

The BCC is now calling on the government to provide immediate certainty for both businesses and employees on the residence rights of existing EU employees. The organisation says that potential skills lost from existing EU workers leaving the UK would hamper businesses at a time when many are already reporting recruitment difficulties. Businesses also need clarity on hiring from the 27 other EU countries during the transition period.

Birmingham Chamber is backing the BCC’s demands, with figures from the region revealing a similar picture to the national survey.

In the West Midlands, 37 per cent of West Midlands businesses who employ EU workers report that they have had employees expressing uncertainty over future residency status.

Some 24 per cent of West Midlands businesses think that a tightening of immigration policy for EU citizens would have a negative impact on their recruitment of higher skilled staff.

And 45 per cent of West Midlands businesses who employ EU workers think that residency guarantees for these employees would have a positive impact on their company.

 In the national survey, more than two fifths (41 per cent) of companies that employ EU workers say EU staff have expressed uncertainty over their future residency status  and 60 per cent of businesses surveyed think residency guarantees for EU workers would have a positive impact on their business (the remaining 28 per cent said it would have no impact and a further 9 per cent said they were unsure or it was not applicable).

BCC acting director general Adam Marshall said: “Since the referendum many firms have expressed concern over the future status of their existing EU workforce. These hardworking people are absolutely vital to the success of businesses, and must be retained – we cannot afford to lose talented and skilled workers. Theresa May should reassure them as soon as possible that they will have the right to remain in the UK, to provide much-needed certainty both for EU employees and UK employers.

“The government must also clarify how new EU hires will be treated, as many businesses also say they are uncertain about whether the people they wish to recruit will be able to continue working with them in future. A sensible immigration policy that allows businesses to plug difficult skills gaps should go hand in hand with sustained investment in training UK workers for the jobs of the present and the future.

“Guaranteeing the rights of EU workers is just one of the major issues that the new government needs to make, and quickly. Decisions on airport and rail expansion are long overdue, which along with action on infrastructure investment will be crucial to solidifying business confidence and laying the foundations for UK growth in the coming years.”

Paul Faulkner (pictured), chief executive of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “The key message highlighted by the results of today’s Workforce Survey is that Government needs to act quickly to provide clarity for existing EU workers. Thirty seven per cent of respondents told us that they have had EU employees expressing uncertainty over their future residency and nearly half of all West Midlands businesses surveyed reported that residency guarantees would have a positive impact for their organisations.

“The survey also revealed that 11 per cent of businesses had seen EU workers stating their intention to leave employment or the UK as a result of the Referendum result. EU workers are integral for a wide variety of businesses across our region and it is important that Government takes steps to assure and retain them during this time of uncertainty.

“This is especially important given the skills gaps that businesses are already facing. In terms of both existing and future EU workers, it is important that the Government’s immigration policies do not restrict the talent pool at a time when the UK’s home-grown talent in certain sectors isn’t yet equipped with the necessary skills to fill the gaps.    

“The result of the EU Referendum has already created a lot of uncertainty for the business community and this is likely to be the case for the foreseeable future. However, Government has the opportunity to instil some confidence in the business community and allay the worries of the nearly 200,000 EU workers across the West Midlands with decisive action on this issue.”

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