No deal Brexit and staff drought costs retail £3bn

A disorderly Brexit and blue-collar staff shortages will see economic output in retail sector lose out on £3.1 billion a year by 2024, according to new research.

A survey of more than 1,000 decision makers from UK firms by Quinyx, a workforce management specialist, found that 45 per cent of retail businesses thought that leaving the EU would negatively impact their ability to hire stock assistants, shop and supermarket workers, as well as auxiliary staff such as warehousing and cleaning assistants.

The survey also found that whatever the Brexit scenario, retailers expect to lose almost a fifth of their current workforce due to a lack of clarity over workers’ rights, immigration policy and a general shortage of blue collar workers as employees seek stability elsewhere.

The study, which combined survey responses with Office for National Statistics data, found that the issues facing Brexit would be most acute in the case of a disorderly ‘no-deal’ Brexit in which the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement for the terms of future trading relationships.

As part of the research, Quinyx compared the predicted growth and economic output of the UK’s blue-collar workforce in the retail sector under both a disorderly and an orderly Brexit scenario.

The study found that the increase in economic output from the UK’s retail workers - in manual and elementary service roles - would be over £5.2 billion per year by 2024 under an orderly Brexit, compared to £2.1 billion under a disorderly Brexit – equating to a 59 per cent reduction or £3.1 billion loss each year.

The research found that in the event of a disorderly Brexit, London, the East of England and the South East will see the greatest reductions in available workers and economic output.

Under any Brexit scenario employers in the UK’s retail sector expect to lose – on average – 16 per cent of their manual and elementary service workforce as a result of Brexit with nine per cent saying they expect to lose 31 per cent or more.

Despite this, 28 per cent have no plan for managing their future pipeline of these workers post-Brexit.

Mansoor Malik, managing director for UK and international at Quinyx, said: "Hiring and retaining staff is no easy task at the best of times, but with Brexit on the horizon it’s crucial that retail businesses now do all they can to attract motivated workers to these roles.

"Employers need to be creative and provide the greater flexibility that manual and elementary service workers are looking for.”

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