Brexit has inevitably created uncertainty across the majority of industry sectors – we’ve never been in this situation before, so no one knows how it’s going to play out. The financial services and banking sectors have been the most sensitive, with major names suggesting that they may move some operations out of the UK, however, in the sectors we focus on, the mood isn’t quite so negative where it’s very much business as usual.
Article 50, the trigger to initiate Brexit procedure, was invoked at the end of Q1 and the full process of our withdrawal from the EU, and therefore its full impact, will take two years to complete. From a recruitment sector point of view, there was a key message in Article 50’s accompanying statement, noting that attracting and retaining talent in the UK was a priority. Equal importance was placed on clarifying the status of EU nationals working in the UK. As nothing will change for two years on major issues such as freedom of movement within the EU, we don’t expect to see a different UK workforce any time soon, given employment is at a record high, and demand for candidates in the private sector has been on the rise for 12 months.
The main change that we do expect to see in Q2, and possibly for the rest of the year, is an increase in the demand for temporary candidates. The on-going uncertainty may see less commitment to hiring from organisations, or shorter-term contracts on offer, particularly for senior positions. Qualified interim accountants are currently very much in vogue, and not just for year-end project work. From an employer’s point of view, an experienced interim is a win-win, allowing them to invest in talent to suit their growth plans, while enabling a perm headcount freeze if that is their current Brexit policy.
Retail & Consumer
Innovation and technology are changing the face of this sector way faster than Article 50 is moving. Despite recent rate and rent rises, inflation, and uncertainty on future cross-border sales and tariffs, the bolder companies are continuing to invest in talent to match their growth and change plans. Commercial Finance professionals are in demand across the board to improve the bottom line, as are Group Accountants for presenting financial results and performance to attract investment. While some clients in FMCG are feeling the impact of the poorly performing exchange rate, the rest are continuing to adapt and improve in this ever changing, demanding market.
Media & Technology
The Tech sector has long relied on niche skill sets, with much of the impressive talent currently in the UK coming from abroad. The focus in this booming sector in the coming months will therefore be on retention, with Brexit uncertainty possibly encouraging some talent to move overseas or make the UK a less attractive place to work. With immigration laws due to change, the sector is lobbying for exemptions for skilled tech candidates from overseas, as well as ensuring the future pipeline of talent is strong from UK universities with overseas graduates encouraged to stay.
For such a dynamic, changing sector, we could well see less innovation and change from companies until the full terms of Article 50 are worked out. Larger brands are facing rising costs and so will most likely concentrate on their core offerings rather than experiment with new, potentially riskier products and services.
Property & Construction
The main change to the Property sector will be influenced by the exchange rate. While there are no direct EU regulations that will affect the property market, a cheap pound will still see foreign investment in property here. However, a natural slowing down is predicted, again due to the overwhelming uncertainty in the City.
Aside from that, Brexit is expected to have very little impact on this sector – house prices outside of London are still increasing due to supply and demand. In terms of house building, it’s estimated that we need to build 174,000 new homes a year to keep up with demand. This figure isn’t being met and with 8% of the workforce in the construction sector comprising EU nationals, it’s hard to see that target being hit any time soon.