Between Brexit and the pandemic, certain industries have lost hundreds of workers. Whether people left the UK as a result of the decision to leave the EU or they are having to isolate, there is a serious staff shortage in certain sectors.
In May 2021, job vacancies reached their highest level since before the pandemic. There are currently over 1.1 million vacancies, a 31-month high. As restrictions lift and certain sectors open back up, businesses are beginning to hire once more. Surprisingly, however, research shows one in 20 jobseekers are unable to find work.
So, where have all the workers gone?
As previously mentioned, many workers have left the country as the result of the UK leaving the EU. The recent ‘pingdemic’ is also a factor. ‘Pingdemic’ refers to the high number of people being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app, telling them to self-isolate. In the week from 14th to the 21st July 2021, nearly 700,000 covid-19 app users were pinged. This is a record high.
This has increased the number of staff having to miss work. In some cases, businesses have been forced to close due to the number of workers being told to isolate.
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The Road Haulage Association suggests the shortage of HGV and lorry drivers is reaching ‘crisis point’, with a loss of approximately 100,000 workers since the pandemic began. It is estimated 60,000 of these workers returned to their home countries in the EU due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and the uncertainty of Brexit.
Recently, Tesco had to cancel many online orders due to a reduced number of delivery drivers. Asda has also suffered as the result of staff shortages, with empty shelves the result of supply chain blockages due to reduced lorry drivers.
Both Tesco and Asda are now calling out for new recruits, offering a sign-up bonus of £1,000 to HGV drivers. They join logistics organisations in calling for the government to tackle the labour crisis. It is thought the shortages will peak by the end of August, due to remaining lorry drivers taking summer breaks.
Arla, one of the biggest dairy providers, admitted they were unable to deliver milk to a quarter of UK supermarkets at the end of July. Sainsbury’s was deeply impacted by reduced dairy deliveries, with many of the shelves empty in milk and dairy sections of the supermarket. A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said they are “working hard to ensure customers can find everything they need”.
One of the largest business groups in the country, Logistics UK has urged a call to action from the government. They have pressed for more incentives from the government to aid in the recruitment process for HGV and lorry drivers.
Empty supermarket shelves are in part due to reduced numbers of lorry drivers, but also due to reduced numbers of staff in the supermarkets themselves. According to the BBC, approximately 35,000 supermarket workers are needed across the UK.
The managing director of Iceland supermarkets recently tweeted that covid-19 related absences were growing exponentially week by week, even suggesting within a few weeks, they would be at the highest they had ever been. Absences are 400% higher than a month ago due to rising cases of coronavirus and people being forced to isolate. Iceland are currently looking to recruit an extra 2,000 workers.
Marks and Spencer supermarkets are also feeling the strain, suggesting opening hours may need to be reduced due to low staff numbers. Tesco are looking to hire a whopping 20,000 temporary staff. Asda are looking to fill 5,000 temporary roles also and are helping in hiring those whose jobs have been impacted or lost due to the virus.
Not surprisingly, supermarket giant Aldi are also in search of 5,000 temporary staff and 4,000 permanent staff. This is in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the disrupted workforce. Morrisons and Lidl are following suit, both hiring thousands of new recruits across the UK.
Pub, café and restaurant workers have been hit particularly hard by the ‘pingdemic’. Greene King, a huge chain of pubs across the UK, announced the temporary closure of 33 pubs in July due to the huge number of workers being told to isolate.
Many chains are offering their staff perks as a way to encourage new recruits. Steak house giant Hawksmoor are offering staff rewards of up to £2,000 for recommending friends and family to join their workforce.
Mitchells and Butlers, the company who own huge names such as Harvester, Miller and Carter, and Toby Carvery are struggling to recruit workers. They suggest the reasons for this include EU workers returning home, and national lockdowns causing people to find work outside of the hospitality industry.
This has been an ongoing problem for the hospitality industry as the result of stop and start lockdowns. In May, the number of vacancies in hospitality was at an all-time high. More than 70,000 roles in hospitality were advertised online for 9 consecutive weeks between May and August. Chefs, in particular, are in high demand. As of August 1st 2021, there were over 42,000 vacancies for chefs.
Andrew Hunter, co-founder of job search engine Adzuna has suggested the ‘pingdemic’ is hugely to blame for this. He also stated many people are still on furlough, as well as some workers being concerned about returning to work due to Covid. Hunter further supported the idea that there are fewer EU workers filling positions.
You can search for vacancies in hospitality on Adzuna.
Care home company HC One are offering huge welcome bonuses of up to £10,000 for registered night-time care nurses. This is due in part to covid, but also as the result of losing many EU citizens due to Brexit. The private care sector has been hit particularly hard.
Other care groups are offering a decent sum to incentivise people to sign up for care roles. The Priory Group and Elysium Healthcare are offering registered nurses welcome bonuses of £5,000, in a bid to encourage new recruits.
According to care company Blue Leaf, vacancies in the care sector are the highest they have ever been. They also suggested the uncertainty of Brexit has impacted the social care industry greatly. In London, one in seven care workers are from the EU. The referendum result led many EU nationals to feel unwelcome living and working in the UK, with the number of overseas workers reducing by 134,000 in the year between 2017 and 2018 alone.
Care provider Independent Care Group (ICG) has called on the government to help. As of 29th July, there were over 100,000 vacancies in the care sector. ICG note the ageing population and the rising number of people being admitted into care as another reason for the strain on care homes.
Additionally, care providers argue plans to make the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory for care home workers are putting off potential recruits. A commentary by the BMJ suggests the care sector will need half a million new recruits over the next decade in order for the industry to remain sustainable. However, if the 13% of unvaccinated care workers were to leave the profession due to the vaccine mandate, the care industry would suffer hugely.
Between 2017 and 2020, there was a 42% fall in EU-born workers in the construction sector, according to the Financial Times. This is a huge loss for the industry. Construction companies are now calling for urgent steps to be taken to mitigate the looming consequences of reduced workforces.
Such consequences include housing projects being slowed dramatically. A shortage of key building materials, such as timber, again linked to the reduced number of HGV and lorry drivers, is also being blamed for the slowing of building work.
The Guardian recently stated two-thirds of construction businesses said they had to wait longer for the delivery of materials, blaming post-Brexit friction and congestion at ports. Additionally, rising prices of raw materials has impacted the industry.
Richard Harpin, the chief executive of Checkatrade, says there is a shortage of skilled workers in the field. He also added the loss of EU-born workers had deeply impacted the industry.
In May, the demand for construction workers and labourers was at it’s highest for 23 years. However, the number of construction workers in the industry declined at the fastest rate since 2017. An increased demand lack of supply has impacted the construction sector deeply, with smaller businesses being harmed most.