British construction industry faces EU worker exodus: Hays

'Less appetite' for non-British workers to take jobs following Brexit vote

British construction industry faces EU worker exodus: Hays
Construction takes place on a highway in Aberdeen, Scotland, Jan. 17. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne


(Reuters) — British construction sites are starting to see a labour shortage as Eastern Europeans, who have traditionally filled the bulk of on-site jobs, have stopped taking positions after Britain's decision to leave the EU, recruiter Hays said.

Chief executive Alistair Cox said there was "less appetite" for non-British workers to take jobs following the Brexit vote and some European Union citizens had quit jobs in Britain, with the immediate impact being felt on construction sites.

"We are starting to see skill shortages in a number of areas there because of a lot of the traditional supply, much of which has come from Europe has dried up," he told Reuters.

Cox's comments are the first indication that firms may struggle to fill jobs after Brexit. So far, staffing companies had said employers in Britain had frozen new job investments and were only hiring replacements for jobs being vacated.

The concern remains that Brexit could cause a mass-exodus of jobs to other countries with large European agencies vacating their British headquarters and financial companies detailing plans to transfer jobs to keep servicing EU clients.

Finance firms had begun moving "some small areas of the business" with "relatively insignificant numbers" of jobs to other European countries, Cox said, declining to name the companies or the functions of jobs moved.

But he said there had not been any moves of larger departments or "hundreds or thousands" of jobs and said finance firms were not only hiring replacements for those leaving but also making fresh hires for risk, compliance and audit.


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