Recruiter warns Britain faces Brexit exodus of construction workers

Eastern European workers said to have stopped taking positions on UK building sites

Hays chief executive Alistair Cox said there was “less appetite” for non-British workers to take jobs following the Brexit vote, and some EU citizens had quit jobs in Britain. Photograph: Getty Images

Hays chief executive Alistair Cox said there was “less appetite” for non-British workers to take jobs following the Brexit vote, and some EU citizens had quit jobs in Britain. Photograph: Getty Images

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British construction sites are starting to see a labour shortage as eastern Europeans, who have traditionally filled the bulk of on-site jobs, have stopped taking positions after Britain’s decision to leave the EU, according to recruiter Hays.

Chief executive Alistair Cox said there was “less appetite” for non-British workers to take jobs following the Brexit vote, and some EU citizens had quit jobs in Britain, with the immediate impact being felt on construction sites.

“We are starting to see skill shortages in a number of areas there because of a lot of the traditional supply, much of which has come from Europe, has dried up.”

Mr Cox’s comments are the first indication that firms may struggle to fill jobs after Brexit. So far staffing companies had said employers in Britain had frozen new job investments and were only hiring replacements for jobs being vacated.

The concern remains that Brexit could cause a mass exodus of jobs to other countries, with large European agencies vacating their British headquarters and financial companies detailing plans to transfer jobs to locations such as Dublin to keep servicing EU clients.

Finance firms had begun moving “some small areas of the business” with “relatively insignificant numbers” of jobs to other European countries, Mr Cox said, declining to name the companies or the functions of jobs moved.

Finance firms

However, he said there had not been any moves of larger departments or “hundreds or thousands” of jobs, and said finance firms were not only hiring replacements for those leaving but also making fresh hires for risk, compliance and audit.

Hays said the wider British market, which along with Ireland accounts for about a quarter of the group’s net fees, remained subdued but stable.

Mr Cox said wage inflation remained subdued at about 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent a year.

Profit from Britain and Ireland rose 24 per cent to £22.6 million (€25.5m) in the six months to December 31st, helped by cost controls. Like-for-like net fees grew 1 per cent. This improvement and international growth pushed Hays’s profit up 16 per cent to £116.5 million, beating consensus of £115.6 million. – Reuters

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