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Employment timebomb could break supply chain

20 August 2018

While much attention has been focused on the low UK unemployment figures, published by the Office of National Statistics, The Freight Transport Association warns Brexit could harm industry access to seasonal workers.

Sally Gilson, FTA’s head of skills says: “Logistics businesses keep Britain trading. But this could change drastically if the government does not allow continued access to seasonal workers. 43,000 HGV drivers, 30,000 van drivers and 113,000 warehouse workers from the EU currently help to keep the supply chain moving. However, due to the seasonal nature of logistics, access to temporary staff is crucial and this gap has been filled by many EU workers. We know the plan for those EU workers wanting to gain settled status but not for those who come to the UK for seasonal work – the ones which businesses rely on to keep goods and services flowing.

“Employers need clarification on who they will be allowed to employ, and the work these staff will be eligible to undertake, now, rather than in March 2019. And with a significant shortage of available British staff to take up the slack – there are currently more than 52,000 vacancies for HGV drivers alone – it is clear that the logistics industry would be unable to move the goods and services the nation needs if the government’s Brexit plan does not allow access to seasonal workers from the EU. Preventing them from working would create a fracture in the supply chain which could not be mended easily.”

One of the solutions to the skills shortage in logistics could be the provision of apprenticeships via the government’s Levy system, to aid employers with recruitment of new staff.

Ms Gilson argues this is a flawed argument: “Logistics is being seriously hindered by a lack of specialist, appropriate apprenticeships. Although the sector has worked hard to develop appropriate qualifications, the process is being prolonged by the Institute for Apprenticeship’s bad administration. We have been waiting for vital new standards to be approved for a year now and without them, businesses are prevented from spending their levy monies appropriately. The government’s own target of three million apprenticeship starts will continue to be unattainable until the apprenticeship system is overhauled to deliver what business needs.”