According to a recent survey of 400 British businesses by the Open University (OU), 90% of employers have struggled to recruit workers with the right skills in the last 12 months. This has led to some employers paying inflated salaries well above market rate to attract the right talent, at an estimated cost of £527 million.

The survey has also highlighted delays in the recruitment process driven by widespread uncertainty surrounding Brexit, with 75% of employers spending longer than expected on recruitment. These delays have led to additional costs in the form of extra recruitment fees and the cost of hiring temporary staff which the OU estimates to be in the region of £1.7 billion.

The existence of a skills gap in the UK is nothing new but what the OU report does is highlight very clearly the financial impact the gap is now having on UK businesses. The report recommends employers focus on upskilling their existing workforce by investing in training and development. Whilst this is to be welcomed, the outcome of the current Brexit negotiations is likely to have a more significant impact on the skills gap. In this regard, a recent report published by Deloitte revealed that 47% of highly skilled EU workers already working in the UK were considering leaving in the next 5 years. Clearly if this were to happen UK businesses would be left in an extremely precarious position. 

With this in mind employers need to act now to develop the skills of their domestic workforce and to work to retain EU workers where possible. Whether UK immigration policy will work to support this aim remains to be seen.