Janet Kerrigan, Service and Development Director at Belfast-based Willis Employment Services, a division of Willis Insurance and Risk Management (Willis IRM), said a recruitment crisis is looming due to uncertainty over the rights of EU nationals to work in the UK post-Brexit.

Willis IRM’s Employment Services division provides services to firms across all sectors including advice on HR, health and safety and employee benefits.

Janet said companies in border regions and in sectors such as hospitality and retail were among the worst affected with many already reporting difficulties attracting new staff:

“Although we still don’t know exactly how Brexit will affect the rights of EU workers in Northern Ireland, changes are inevitable and the triggering of Article 50 means the clock is now ticking towards those adjustments.

“The challenge for industry now is to prepare and future-proof their operations as much as possible.”

Janet said the recruitment crisis had the potential to affect some of Northern Ireland’s most important industries:

“According to the most recent Labour Market Outlook from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), around 27 per cent of EU nationals are considering leaving their jobs or the UK in 2017.

“This could have a profound effect on some of Northern Ireland’s key sectors, many of which rely on migrant workers.

“More than half of working EU nationals born outside the UK are employed in industries such as hospitality, agriculture, retail, health and social work, construction and manufacturing.

“And for firms in the border region, the issue is even greater with thousands of workers commuting from the Republic of Ireland daily.

“Previously, job vacancies in these areas would have attracted many applicants from south of the border and other non-UK nationals.

“However, companies are telling us that they are already experiencing a decline in candidates born outside Northern Ireland.”

Janet said there are several key steps businesses should take as they prepare for Brexit:

“Maintaining accurate labour records and being aware of who in your organisation will be most affected by Brexit is vital.

“Once you know the numbers and people involved, you can turn to engagement as a strategy and increase efforts in this area.

“Firms should also set aside resources to implement any possible changes to, such as Working Time Regulations, TUPE, immigration policy and others.

“Seeking professional advice and making changes now could avert a recruitment headache in the future.”

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