Last reviewed 30 November 2021

The supply of EU workers has slowed dramatically since the introduction of migration restrictions, according to the latest official migration statistics, with employers now looking elsewhere in the world for employees using the Skilled Worker route (formerly Tier 2).

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has highlighted that, in the 12 months to September 2021, the five most popular sources of labour for skilled worker visas were India (53,000), Philippines and Nigeria (both 9000), the United States (6000) and Pakistan (4000).

Almost 60% of sponsored skilled worker visa applications were drawn from the health and social care (42%) and information and communications (16%) sectors.

CIPD senior labour market adviser, Gerwyn Davies, said: “Substantial growth in the supply of labour, due mainly to increased immigration from the EU, has helped meet strong labour demand over the past decade and more. However, the abrupt halt in the supply of EU workers continues to cause shockwaves for employers across all sectors; particularly for hard-to-fill vacancies in low-paying sectors where EU citizens have been disproportionately employed.”

He goes on to suggest that the dramatic reduction in the inflow of workers from the Union will also be a big concern to the Bank of England, as this may also contribute to mounting recruitment difficulties which, together with the current surge in price inflation, may lead to a pay-price spiral.

Mr Davies argues that the findings reinforce the case for the immediate introduction of a temporary immigration safety valve, via a unilateral Youth Mobility Scheme for young EU citizens, to help alleviate rising labour and skills shortages.

According to official data, the number of Youth Mobility visas (which are restricted to a few countries such as Canada and Australia) in the 12 months to September 2021 was 38% lower than the previous year.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

Organisations are increasingly turning to recruitment of foreign workers to fill widespread labour shortages. However, there are several factors employers must consider when hiring from overseas.

First, employers have to ensure they complete the appropriate right to work checks; Brexit has meant employees must have a relevant work visa to undertake a new role in the UK.

This means organisations have to apply to become sponsors and keep up to date with their sponsorship organisations.

Following this, employers must remember their wider duty of care requirements; many employees will be coming to the UK for the first time and have limited understanding of local cultures, awareness of “good” areas of towns and social contact with friends and family.

This may be particularly hard hitting for young workers, especially considering the calls to relax visa schemes for such individuals.

Therefore, employers should proactively think about ways they can support these employees. This may done be by organising networking events to let them meet and interact with peers, signposting them to language classes or sports clubs and taking time to discuss the local area as part of the onboarding process.