Phew! We are all glad to see the end of 2020, alongside the unique challenges that came in the year to businesses, the economy, the blessed NHS, key workers, and (most importantly) each and every one of us personally in some way.

Covid 19 brought a lot of changes in 2020 and has unfortunately spilled over into 2021. However, this blog is not about the pandemic, or the virus (the media have that covered en masse) – but, it does play its part in the narrative.

No, this blog is about something else that is equally affecting and sneaked past us over Christmas 2020 in its resolution, yes, the ‘B’ word – Brexit.

How Brexit will change business

Whether you were a Remainer or Leaver, this fundamental change to all our lives is finally here. Its ramifications and implications are slowly starting to manifest. They will affect our everyday commerce lives and business processes over the coming months, whilst everyone’s focus is pulled in other directions: Covid-19/ Lockdown 2.

What did the 2000-page treaty document contain? See here for the meat and bones.

So, back to the question at hand, “What does it mean for any of us recruiting?”
Answer- a lot potentially!

In 2020, job vacancies in the UK dropped by 46.1% over 2019 across all sectors of industry. A sobering percentage, isn’t it?

Unemployment rate has risen from 3.8% in 2019 to 4.5% in 2020, (according to the ONS – Office of National Statistics) – a 2-year high. Again, bleak numbers to digest.

More people out of work, less vacancies, an uncertain business climate, on-going epidemic restrictions, now Brexit implications. This is creating a heady cocktail for any involved in hiring processes, or Human Resources and Recruiters in general.

No one can do anything about the pandemic. A virus does not answer to politicians, it is an advent of nature, not bothered by electoral concern, or its damage to society as a whole. It does what it wants with impunity, until it is stopped by a vaccine, or its own mother (nature), making changes to the environment in which it thrives, that are not suited to its continued communicability anymore.

What does Brexit mean to Hiring Managers?

In short, potentially – Red tape!

To expand on my point, this also means not only people on the recruiting end of the process; it will potentially affect candidates applying for positions as well.


With the withdrawal from the EU and the altering of the trade deal parameters between the UK and Europe, under the new Brexit deal, candidates looking to move abroad for a job opportunity in the EU may have to apply individually to each separate country. They will need to see if their academical qualifications will be recognised in that country. This also applies to workers looking to work in the UK from the EU, as the UK will now have the individual right to set its own standards.

In the past, this was seen not as major barrier (or additional hurdle to offers of employment). This will apply to all professions such as accountancy, law, and medicine sectors (for example) and may well also impact on professional services, recruiters and professional contractors.

By impacting then on the viability of candidates (due to their country of qualifications of origin) this will impact on employers potentially hiring talent from other nations to join their organisations. And, worryingly, this could potentially become an added cultural/ethnic diversity issue.

“The compromise on equivalence which leaves the UK free to set its own standards in areas such as labour law, means we can, in a limited way, diverge from EU regulation. The Agency Worker Regulations (AWR) is an example of one EU regulation that the professional recruitment sector sees as red tape and would like reviewed.”

Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at APSCo.

The GDPR impacts of Brexit

GDPR is an area that all companies should be very mindful of. It could potentially be an area of contention of what the applied UK’s standards are of GDPR (and what the equivalent to the EU’s will be moving forwards). It is hoped that an ‘adequacy agreement’ can be reached on the free flow of personal data in future: the current GDPR standards we work with/to with the EU are only in effect till the end of April 2021.

The Right to Work impacts of Brexit

The UK’s departure from the EU will create some major challenges for organisations whose work forces include non-British nationals or rely on seasonal immigrant workers. This will affect all areas: Industrial, Agriculture, Building trades, Hospitality, for example.

“Having been accustomed to operating freely across the EU/EEA, a candidate’s nationality (providing they are an EU/EEA citizen) didn’t need to be considered when hiring – it was all about the best person for the job. But things have changed as of January 1st, 2021. This will impact not only non-British employees working in the UK, but also highly likely British nationals working in the European Union will be affected. Latest figures show that there are 1.3 million UK nationals living in EU countries – that’s a significant administrative burden for firms to tackle.”

Kathryn Barnes, Employment Counsel EMEA at Globalization Partners

Up to June the 30th of 2021, all employers and employees have been given a period of grace to get their documents in place under the UK/EU new Trade deal. So, there is time at present to get these matters addressed. EU citizens must be prepared to be challenged with stringent Right to Work checks and satisfaction of existing/new requirements to remain. However, further light on this has not been forthcoming – and is still awaited by many.

Global Talent will follow up with the aforementioned quote in a future blog on Right to Work changes.

If you have any queries regards hiring anyone from the EU moving forwards, please see the link below to the Governments official website, in regards this particular point:

Recruiting people from outside the UK – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

With regards to ‘sponsorship’ of a Skilled Worker from another country under the new system, please see this helpful, official link:

Apply for a sponsor licence – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The Skills Gap and Brexit

I have spoken and worked with a lot of employers in my time in recruitment, and never more so than last year was the skills gap issue mentioned during conversations. This gap is growing in the UK and needs to be remedied, not only companies themselves, but also with more intervention, and initiatives from Governments. This also needs to further involve education with colleges and seats of learning, looking at course content and working with both Government and industry with more synchronicity and innovatively, to ensure the skills drain does not become even wider.

red tape that I have laid out beforehand in this blog, it is also pertinent to include the skills gap issue in concert of the issues, that those hiring, will additionally face in 2021.

In a report published in 2021, People Power, an insightful study by The City of Guilds Group, saw them engage with over 1000 Employers in the UK. This study models results then revealed that:

“Two thirds of UK employers think that the skills gaps in their businesses are likely to get worse or remain the same in the next 3-5 years.”

“The City & Guilds Group and EMSI reveals that nine in 10 employers already struggle to recruit the skilled staff they need.”

If businesses are to recover after the tsunami of the Covid impacts, they will have to grow again or evolve in the new ‘normal’ we will no doubt enter in the latter part of 2021 and beyond. If businesses grow, they will need skilled workers – simples! However, as aforementioned, I have already picked out some stumbling blocks that may prevent this, i.e., UK/EU parity on recognised qualifications and GDPR, etc.

From same this same report, the following results were also revealed:

“Employers also expect skills gaps to have an adverse effect on productivity in the future. When asked what internal factors might impact upon the productivity of their businesses in the next 3-5 years, the top answer from respondents was struggling to recruit skilled workers (47%). When considering external factors, Brexit topped the list of concerns – with almost half (46%) of UK employers stating that it will hamper business growth. This is no surprise, given 85% of those surveyed say that they currently employ talent from the EU.”

Kirstie Donnelly from the City and Guild Group also stated within the report:

“The UK is facing a skills gaps crisis which, if goes unaddressed, could have a disastrous impact on UK businesses’ ability to compete on a global scale post-Brexit.”

Brexit and recruitment summary

In summary, things always look blackest before the dawn. We have yet to see the full ramifications of the UK/EU trade deal play out as yet and this blog was not meant to be a scaremongering exercise. I clearly wanted to illustrate the challenges ahead for all of us, that (if unchecked) could potentially have ramifications on meeting expectations of hiring the right person, or getting the right person for a new role post Brexit in 2021 and beyond.

Thank you for taking the time and reading. We’d love to hear your thoughts!