The Freight Transport Association is urging government to act on the findings of the Home Affairs Committee report on migration to ensure that UK business can continue to operate at full staffing levels after the UK leaves the EU.
The logistics sector, which represents 11% of the British economy’s GVA, relies heavily on EU workers, with 14% of HGV drivers and 25% of warehouse staff coming from other EU countries.
James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive of FTA, which represents more than 17,000 businesses across the UK logistics sector, states, the Committee is right to raise concerns over the lack of guidance given to business over the future rights of these trained logistics staff.
“Up to now, the political emphasis on Brexit has focused on trade and borders, while sidelining future immigration policy for a later date,” he said. “EU workers represent more than 12% of the UK’s logistics workforce, yet this lack of clarity on their future status has left their employers in limbo, not knowing whether they will be able to continue employing them under their current contracts after Brexit. An employee’s right to work in the UK is a pre-condition of most employment contracts.
“The Migration Advisory Committee is due to publish its findings over the future of EU workers currently in the UK in the autumn, but this is too late for businesses which are already planning for 2019 and beyond. A clear and informed debate about the various policy options available needs to start now about future access to non-UK workers, so that employers can have clarity on the scale of their recruitment needs.”
While permanent EU workers form a significant proportion of the workforce for logistics businesses across the sector, there is a particular need for the continued availability of seasonal workers to support fluctuations in trading requirements.