Around 6% of employers surveyed believed that their business was fully prepared for Brexit, a survey by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) revealed.
The REC’s JobsOutlook, which reported this figure, warned that, “with no deal yet in place, and concerns around a new strain of the virus… a sensible grace period in the weeks after 1 January, so that businesses can adapt to new rules with little notice, is required.”
This echoes what other business chiefs have been saying. Last week, it was reported the Confederation of British Industry is calling for UK and European Union governments to “smooth the cliff edge” of Brexit disruption as trade rules are overhauled in the New Year.
Neil Carberry, CEO of the REC, said that “Even now, the challenges at the border remind us that we need business to flow as normally as possible from January 1 to help us make progress, whatever the outcome of the Brexit talks.
He said businesses don’t feel prepared because “their most basic questions are still unanswered”, like how to invoice their customers in the EU or how business travel will be impacted.
“The grace period should extend to business travel rules and permission to trade services in EU member states for a short period,” he added.
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Meanwhile, businesses confidence in the wider UK economy fell by a further two points to net -51, reflecting the high stakes of both the COVID-19 situation, and the last stages of tense Brexit talks.
However, the survey also found that employers became more confident in their ability to hire new staff over the past month.
Their confidence in making hiring and investment decisions rose by six percentage points in the three months to November, compared to the previous rolling quarter.
This put confidence levels at net +1, returning to positive territory for the first time since the period of January to March.
Employers’ intentions to hire permanent staff have been improving since the summer.
Demand for permanent workers in the short term (next three months) grew by six points to net +20, while medium-term demand (four to twelve months) grew by five points to net +22.
An increasing number of firms have been looking to the support of temporary workers to see them through the run up to Christmas.
Short-term demand for agency workers rose by five points from the previous rolling quarter to net +6. Medium-term demand meanwhile rose by eight points to net +12.
“Our report today points to a more hopeful future for the UK jobs market, if we can begin to get through the crisis as the vaccine rolls out,” said Carberry.
Referring to the new restrictions announced by the UK government over the weekend, he said: “Business leaders around the country will be working out what the new controls mean for them – and taking the steps necessary to protect strained cashflows.
Carberry was referring to prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement, which cancelled Christmas for millions across London and the South East amid fears a new strain of the virus is taking hold and spreading more rapidly.
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