The REC’s Jobs Outlook survey found that plans to recruit both permanent and temporary workers have stalled. A third (34%) of employers are unsure about their short-term hiring plans for temporary agency workers, while only 18% intend to increase their permanent staff over the next four to 12 months.
Large organisations are especially affected, with 47% unsure if they will increase or decrease their number of agency workers over the next three months. This is up from 40% last month and from 18% in February last year.
Concerns over Brexit are a driving factor behind lagging recruitment, according to the research.
More than a third (35%) of respondents think that economic conditions in the country are getting worse, while only one in five (21%) say they are improving. The net balance of confidence in hiring and investment decisions has fallen to eight – the lowest since the referendum.
Kevin Green, chief executive at the REC, told HR magazine: “The increasing numbers of EU workers leaving the UK are damaging an already tight labour market. With no guarantees over the status of EU workers, and stagnating wages, EU nationals are voting with their feet and going home.
“Employers will have to really focus on retaining talent. That means trying to reassure staff from the EU as best they can about the future, making sure jobs are as attractive as possible, and addressing problems with management and leadership. There are already huge problems with skills shortages across several sectors, and through not addressing these issues employers are playing with fire.”
Green urged the government to provide guidance about what Brexit will mean for businesses. “We’ve now got a year left before Brexit happens and we still don’t know what this means for employers or EU staff in the country. Businesses need clarity to feel confident about the UK’s economic conditions. The government needs to get rid of this huge question mark and instead ensure that businesses and our successful labour market are supported,” he said.
The Jobs Outlook survey was completed by ComRes on behalf of the REC, and polled 600 employers involved in hiring processes.