UK faces two year 'perfect storm' of Brexit and Covid staff shortages

6 September 2021, 07:15

The CBI issued the warning amid national shortages across the UK
The CBI issued the warning amid national shortages across the UK. Picture: Alamy
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A "perfect storm" of Brexit and Covid staff shortages which could last for two more years, a leading business group warned last night.

A "perfect storm" caused by Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic has left businesses battling shortages of lorry drivers, waiters, chefs and construction workers, according to the Confederation of British Industry, which represents 190,000 companies.

Director general Tony Danker warned that the "acute" skills shortages will extend into yet more industries and may not resolve themselves until 2023.

Hundreds of thousands of overseas workers, who left Britain during the pandemic, have stayed abroad while others left in the wake of stricter immigration rules following Brexit.

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Pan-Asian chain Wagamama has revealed difficulty in hiring chefs across a fifth of its restaurants as the sector battles amid a "perfect storm" of supply chain woes and staff shortages.

The group's recently appointed chief executive Thomas Heier said he was struggling to fill chef vacancies in around 30 sites.

He said Brexit was impacting the number of European workers looking for jobs in the UK, but also blamed tough competition in the recruitment market as logistics firms are resorting to wage hikes and steep cash bonuses to help plug lorry and delivery driver shortages.

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The lorry driver shortage has seen big firms such as Tesco and Asda offering £1,000 starting bonuses for new recruits, while Amazon is also offering £1,000 "golden hellos" to attract new warehouse workers amid soaring demand for online shopping.

Rocketing demand for workers saw 193,000 new job adverts posted in the week to August 29 alone, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

CBI boss Tony Danker said that “standing firm and waiting for shortages to solve themselves is not the way to run an economy”.

He added that the UK needed to simultaneously address short-term economic needs and long-term economic reform. According to a report published on Monday, the CBI said that “inflexibility now just brings economic damage”.

The CBI blamed the shortages on a combination of the pandemic and Brexit, which had both limited the numbers of EU workers.