One of the key unresolved issues in the Brexit debate is what happens after 29 March 2019 in terms of recruiting new staff to fill key jobs in car dealerships?
The UK car retailing sector has long benefitted from the skills and work ethic of staff from EU member states across all disciplines from sales and aftersales through to valeting. While the status of European nationals currently employed in our sector looks assured, through the government’s recently announced settlement scheme, what happens next?
Dealers have traditionally struggled to recruit from schools and universities, where car retailing is seldom seen as a career of choice. The same is true of the hospitality sector where some of the best service I’ve ever experienced has been from staff from other EU countries whether manning hotel reception desks or serving in restaurants; important jobs which rarely seem to be filled by UK nationals.
As the clock ticks on Brexit there is a potential workforce crisis heading our way. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) estimates that around 10% of staff employed in the UK automotive sector are from elsewhere in the EU1. What will happen when that 10% starts to churn and needs to be replaced?
We already know that since the Brexit vote fewer EU nationals are coming to the UK to work. Research by the Office for National Statistics2 shows how the number of EU citizens working in the UK dropped year-on-year in Q1 2018 by 20,000 to 2.29 million, the first fall in eight years.
The SMMT estimates there are currently over 5,000 vacancies across the UK automotive sector1, positions that need to be filled if we are to grow as an industry but without EU workers we will struggle to fill them locally.
With the UK government committed to achieving some form of Brexit, car retailers across the UK need urgent assurances about who they can recruit after March if business plans being written now are to be achieved.
A guarantee of the existing free movement of labour within European borders must be a fundamental part of any Brexit agreement, otherwise the hard work put into successfully turning our sector around after the financial crisis will be undone.
1 Source: SMMT https://www.smmt.co.uk/industry-topics/brexit/
2 Source: Office for National Statistics https://bit.ly/2nU5UoB