As the Brexit negotiations continue, the news is packed with insights provided by politicians, businesses leaders, economists and commentators, who may be able to critically analyse the issues but have dominated the debate. Considering that such a mammoth change to the status quo was propelled by millions of regular people voting in the EU referendum, it’s vital to encourage a more open conversation. This is pertinent, considering that many referendum voters have felt left out the discourse, unable to discuss the state of the country and its place in the world.
Although, a detrimental effect of a wider dialogue can be an overwhelming focus on British people’s thoughts and concerns, leading to nonsensical arguments about passport colours and the like. This crowds out the perspectives of the international families, workers, students and others that play an important part in society and are now worried about an uncertain future.
To this end, we decided to commission a survey of 175 Syft workers, Syfters, to gauge their opinions about the major issue of the day and consider potential initiatives, such as addressing the uncertainty around residency rights.
Our first question determined that just over three-quarters of our respondents are drawn from EU nations. Non-British workers play a huge role in the industries Syft provides staff for across the UK. This March 2017 study cites government figures which put the percentage of EU nationals working in hospitality at 12.3% (KPMG says the actual number may be as high as 23.7%). In logistics, this June 2017 report states that EU workers make up 26% of warehouse operatives. With EU workers’ rights post-Brexit still up for debate, this could leave Syft with a much-reduced workforce and a broader shortfall in other sectors.
Out of the 175 Syfters surveyed, 133 answered our query regarding EU National residency and work permit requirements post-Brexit. 44% of people said they were unaware of the terms. A cause could be that the information which may help, such as UK residency applications and legal advice, hasn’t been adequately laid out. A useful solution could be for the government or businesses to release a Brexit guide, detailing the current situation, the areas which are liable to change and how people can best prepare themselves to minimize personal disruption. 35% of surveyed Syfters replied ‘no’ to ‘Do you know if you are eligible to stay in the UK post-Brexit?’.
52% of survey respondents answered ‘yes’ to this query. Those Syfters may feel that Brexit’s possible economic impact, such as a recession or no deal with the EU, could have a detrimental impact on future career potential. In addition, UK nationals who respondents to the survey may see their work options curtailed because they will lose the right to live and work in the EU. However, nearly half said ‘no’ to the question. This could be because EU nationals will retain the right to travel anywhere in the EU after Brexit, or retain economic confidence regardless of Brexit. This response reflects Brexit’s polarizing nature, particularly when it comes to economic issues and personal effects.
What do you think hospitality industry and employers can do to address this issue?
Answering this query, nearly half of the Syfters said that the hospitality industry and employers should ‘Provide information, advice or assistance on your post-Brexit situation’. This shows that many of the respondents feel that the hospitality industry should be doing more to inform and help. Considering the hospitality sector is experiencing a worker shortfall, it’d make sense for employers to foster goodwill and ensure that prospective workers are aware of residency and employment issues before they work in the UK. However, employers might claim that the situation is still too uncertain to give any totally certain advice. 30% of respondents said that hospitality employers should be more proactive by putting ‘more pressure on the topic for the benefit of the business and job security’. In an industry so reliant on EU national workers, it makes sense that employers should press the issue, thereby helping themselves and their workers. However, with firms ranging from financial services to the auto industry pressing their own business interests to the government, there’s a lot of competition to secure special guarantees.
Our survey shows us that Syft respondents aren’t totally sure of their rights post-Brexit and believe the hospitality industry should do more to help. A Brexit preparation guide would be a great way to keep the hospitality workers informed and show that the industry, with such a diverse workforce, is showing leadership. With the industry grappling with problems such as a worker shortfall and pressured businesses scaling down, such as Jamie’s Italian and Byron, something has to change.