EU Referendum: A Defining Moment for UK Recruitment

Like many others, the EU referendum is one of the most defining votes I will ever participate in.

I’m sure you have all done your own research, discussed with your own friends and family and formulated your own opinions. I’m sure there are also many of you that already knew your decision when the referendum was announced. However, with 23rd June approaching, I would like to share some closing points and opinions of my own in relation to the recruitment industry.


One of the major arguments of the stay campaign, and one that is of obvious interest to me, is the skills shortage within the UK. The current jobs market is what we call in recruitment a “candidate-driven market”, where skilled workers are in high demand and short supply. Therefore, they typically have multiple job offers and consequently multiple career options. A Brexit would threaten a break-up of the EU, and the high proportion of our skilled workers who come from Europe would face an increase in unnecessary bureaucracy, leading to a decline in the freedom of movement of labour between member states due to Visas and other administrative procedures.

The restriction on free labour movement and Visas would reduce the UK’s attractiveness as a place to work. We must also consider “short termism” wherein contract work becomes much more viable, resulting in an increase in people coming for jobs and leaving when contracts are complete, rather than settling in the UK with permanent jobs.


While restriction on free movement is likely, we are still unsure to what extent it would be. However, what a Brexit would mean is taking back control of our borders. Without the EU enforcing its open border rules, the UK would gain full control of both the skill level and number of people entering the UK – clearly an issue the public cares greatly about considering the amount of rhetoric surrounding it in the media. The ability to control immigration based on niche and in-demand skillsets will supposedly boost our economy, rather than the “open to anyone” structure that we currently maintain.

In terms of tackling the skills shortage, the lack of skilled workers could encourage the government to invest more heavily in training people in the UK with the required skillsets. Alongside this, we would have the ability to set our own employment laws. European working directives, such as AWR and Working Time, would have no effect in UK – meaning a more flexible working environment.


There is estimated to be over 14 million skills shortages for roles by 2020. Which way we choose to tackle the Brexit will be instrumental in mitigating this.

It would be unwise to dismiss one side or another. But speaking strictly from a recruitment perspective, the increased bureaucracy and decreased attractiveness of migrating to and hiring from outside the UK makes leaving the EU a less attractive option than remaining.

If we do find ourselves facing a Brexit, we must be extremely reactive to the new regulations and procedures to ensure the UK remains a competitive place for global business. If we are not, the decision could be defining for all the wrong reasons.


My thoughts in this blog were the topic of my recent presentation at an APSCo event. For more on this subject I recommend APSCo’s EU manifesto which you can find here:

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