End of free movement will damage UK organisations, the CIPD warns

As Brexit negotiations kicked off this week, and the Queen delivered her address setting out the legislative agenda for the new Government, one issue hangs over

The UK has a long history of relying on migrant work in order to not only enrich its culture, but to boost workforces and help build a more prosperous economy. But after the vote to leave, and a commitment to end freedom of movement, the UK is now looking at what a new immigration system will look like.

The CIPD this week published new research, alongside the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), looking at how businesses would react to a range of immigration options, and how concerned they were about the effect changes would have on their industry. The project involved 26 in-depth case studies, 6 focus groups across the UK and a survey of more than 1,000 employers.

What the research found was that one-in-ten businesses have seen a decrease in the number of the EU nationals they have recruited since Brexit, a sign that we are already potentially seeing a negative impact when it comes to businesses’ ability to recruit from the EU.

As well as that, there is a clear concern, especially among companies who rely on migrant workers to fill low-skilled jobs, that any new immigration system that reduced their ability to recruit workers from outside the UK could significantly impact their operations.

The report recommends that the Government should abandon their target to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands and provide additional routes to recruit EU nationals for low-skilled work. No detail was provided in the Queen’s speech on precisely what the immigration bill will look like, but the CIPD is calling for a robust immigration system to be built that is straightforward, flexible and affordable to ensure that businesses continue to have access to the skills that they need.

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At the same time, businesses have a responsibility to look at how they are training and recruiting workers. There is no doubt that the easy supply of migrant labour has made some organisations relax about the levels to which they invest in their own talent. Faced with potential limits on migration, it’s now more important than ever that employers are accessing talent from as wide a pool as possible.

The report was very well received, appearing on the front page of The Observer on Sunday and then across the media in the following days. This coverage helps position the CIPD at the forefront of these issues, and allows the Institute to add an authoritative voice to what can sometimes be a debate that generates more heat than light.

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