Blog: Labour crisis caused by Covid and Brexit ‘could last up to two years’ –

Staffing levels in the UK have been hit by Brexit rules and Covid (Picture: Getty)

Britain faces up to two years of staff shortages caused by a ‘perfect storm’ of Brexit and Covid, a leading business group has warned.

The CBI said there is growing evidence of staff shortages which are continuing to hit businesses trying to recover from the pandemic.

It said that the labour crisis extends beyond a lack of lorry drivers, which has been hitting supply chains to supermarkets, pubs and other businesses.

In recent weeks, McDonald’s ran out of milkshake, Nando’s closed some of its restaurants because of a lack of chicken, and Wetherspoons customers faced beer shortages.

Now the boss of Wagamama has said the restaurant chain is struggling to hire chefs at a fifth of its sites after being hit by a shortage of staff from Europe because of new Brexit immigration restrictions.

James Bielby, who leads the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, said: ‘There are chronic staff shortages throughout the food and drink supply chain presently, with up to 500,000 vacancies.’

The UK work force has been hit by a perfect storm of Brexit and Covid (Picture: Getty)
A job advert in Westminster as thousands of vacancies have been posted (Picture: Getty)

The CBI’s director general Tony Danker has now called on ministers to help ease the crisis, which has been dubbed a ‘perfect storm’, by using their ‘immigration levers’ to ease short-term pressures.

He said standing firm and waiting for shortages to solve themselves is not the way to run an economy.

Mr Danker said: ‘In the UK, many overseas workers left during the pandemic, affecting sectors including hospitality, logistics and food processing, and new immigration rules make replacing those who left more complex.

‘The Government’s ambition that the UK economy should become more high-skilled and productive is right, but implying that this can be achieved overnight is simply wrong, and a refusal to deploy temporary and targeted interventions to enable economic recovery is self-defeating.

Supermarket shelves have been hit by a lack of lorry drivers (Picture: Getty)
The food and drink industry has been hit hard by Brexit rules (Picture: Getty)

‘The CBI has heard from companies actively cutting capacity because they can’t meet demand, like the hoteliers limiting the number of bookable rooms because they don’t have enough housekeeping staff and can’t get linen laundered.

‘Meanwhile, some restaurant owners have had to choose between lunchtime and evening services when trying to make the most of summer. It’s also visible to consumers when lead-in times for purchases like kitchens or furniture double.

‘Employers back existing Government schemes to get people back into work, and businesses are already spending significant amounts on training, but that takes time to yield results, and some members suggest it could take two years rather than a couple of months for labour shortages to be fully eliminated.’

A noticeboard advertising a vacancy for a sous chef (Picture: Getty)

A Government spokesman said they are closely monitoring labour supply and are ‘working with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points’.

He added: ‘Our Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work.

‘The Government encourages all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through offering training, careers options, wage increases and investment.’

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