The UK government is set to issue temporary visas and extend existing visas for foreign workers in a bid to alleviate some of the supply issues the nation is currently facing.
300 temporary visas are being issued to foreign fuel drivers allowing them to work in the UK until the end of March 2022.
Almost 5,000 foreign workers in the food haulage industry will see their visas extended to the end of February. Additionally, over 5,000 visas for foreign workers in the poultry industry have had their expiry extended from Christmas eve to the end of February amid fears of a turkey shortage this Christmas.
But the government said temporary visas were not a long-term solution and urged firms to invest in a UK workforce.
Trade association Logistics UK estimates that the UK is in need of about 90,000 HGV drivers – with existing shortages made worse by a number of factors, including the pandemic, Brexit, an ageing workforce, and low wages and poor working conditions.
UK petrol companies continue to battle an ongoing fuel crisis, which has been blamed on Brexit and COVID.
BP, one of the worst affected companies, insists it has more than enough fuel to stock it’s stations. The issue is sourcing HGV drivers to transport it.
But why is there a HGV driver shortage? UK companies across all sectors are currently grappling a labour shortage, which has been attributed to factors such as Brexit and the pandemic.
According to the RHA (Road Haulage Association) there are approximately 100,000 vacancies across the HGV driver sector. The industry has blamed Brexit, citing a mass post-Brexit exodus of EU drivers and also a huge lack of driver training throughout the pandemic.
However, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted on Friday that leaving the EU was not a factor, claiming that it has actually helped “provide a solution” to the problem.
He told Sky News: “I have seen people point to Brexit as the culprit here when in fact they are wrong.
“Not only are there very large and even larger shortages in other EU countries like Poland and Germany, which clearly can’t be because of Brexit.
“But actually because of Brexit I have been able to change the law and alter the way our driving tests operate in a way that I could not have done if we were still part of the EU.”
While the fuel crisis is still ongoing, UK petrol retailers have confirmed that they have seen some signs of stabilisation today.
The number of people out of work in the wider Yorkshire and Humber region is now in excess of 200,000. Many employers are looking to offer incentives such as increased hourly pay or bonuses.
Sectors that are in dire need of staff include manufacturing and production, administration, social care and hospitality.
It comes as the Office of National Statistics yesterday published unemployment figures for the region, revealing that the number of people out of work had fallen slightly in the past two months as lives return to normal from last year.
There is some speculation that the general public remain under the impression that the job market is still turbulent following the pandemic, with many concerned that jobs may not be as secure as they were prior. Many people are also still concerned about the risk of catching COVID at work.
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As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, job vacancies have reached record numbers.
The figures in the three months before August rose above one million for the first time since 2001.
The ONS deputy statistician, Jonathan Athow, said: “Early estimates from payroll data suggest that in August the total number of employees is around the same level as before the pandemic, though our surveys show well over a million are still on furlough.”
However, Mr Athow pointed out that recovery is not even. Areas such as London and sectors such as the arts are still disproportionately down.
“The overall employment rate continues to recover, particularly among groups such as young workers who were hard hit at the outset of the pandemic, while unemployment has fallen,” he said.
Overall, the unemployment rate fell from 4.7% to 4.6% in the three months to July.
Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce said, however, that firms were currently facing an “acute hiring crisis”.
“With Brexit and Covid-19 driving a more deep-seated decline in labour supply, the end of furlough is unlikely to be a silver bullet to the ongoing shortages,” he said.
“These recruitment difficulties are likely to dampen the recovery by limiting firms’ ability to fulfil orders and meet customer demand.”
The food and accommodation sectors saw the biggest jump in the number of jobs available in August, increasing by 57,600.
The Government is to streamline HGV driver testing in an attempt to prevent a supply chain crisis at Christmas.
An announcement regarding the changes to the testing regime is expected any day now, amid dire warnings from the industry about the impact of the ongoing shortages.
Ministers are said to be “deeply worried about Christmas” and several measures are likely to be announced by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps in a bid to speed up recruitment.
Measures could include streamlining the qualifications required to drive class C large rigid lorries and class E articulated heavy goods vehicles. At present, drivers have to wait several weeks between the two tests but that may be scrapped.
In the last two years more than 50,000 drivers have left the industry. This is due to a combination of the pandemic and Brexit, leaving hauliers struggling to keep lorries on the road and businesses struggling to meet customer demand.
You can read more about the expected changes here
- In the week of 23-29 August, there were 1.66 million active job adverts in the UK
- There were around 193,000 new job adverts posted in the same week
- New job postings numbers have remained high since early June, and labour shortages continue to be a concern for both government and businesses
- Dispensing opticians were in increasing demand last week, as well as driving instructors, and vehicle body builders and repairers
- Six out of the UK’s top ten hiring hotspots were in Scotland last week, as the country opened up further
- Meanwhile, six of the bottom ten local areas for growth in job adverts were in Northern Ireland
In the week of 23-29 August, there were a total of 1.66 million active job adverts in the UK, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC)’s latest Jobs Recovery Tracker. The last five weeks have seen the highest weekly figures in job adverts since mid-December 2020.
The number of new job adverts being posted each week has remained high since early June. Last week there were 193,000 new job postings in the UK. This high level of demand continues as many sectors find themselves with a shortage of available workers and companies battle to recruit staff.
Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:
“Demand for workers remains very high across the economy and shows no signs of weakening. With businesses in the particularly squeezed food, logistics and hospitality sectors starting to gear up for Christmas, the months ahead could be difficult – even with a large number of people coming off furlough in August and September.
“It is worth remembering that some of this could be short-term. Large numbers of people are finding new work post-pandemic as the economy reshapes. But that realignment will take time, and there is good evidence to suggest that the market will remain tight for some years to come, even if the current crisis passes. Hiring businesses need to assess their workforce plans and work out how they are going to attract and retain the staff they need in the coming months and years. Recruitment businesses are best placed to help with this, as experts in the field. But employers also need government to work with them in a practical, co-operative way on skills, unemployment and immigration changes in order to get through this crisis.”
The Government has announced an increase in National Insurance contributions to help fund social care in England, and to help the NHS recover following the pandemic.
This has been met by some backlash however, claiming this will be unfair on younger people and those on a lower wage. Those earning £20,000 per year will pay an extra £130 whereas someone on £50,000 will pay an additional £505.
In April 2023, the National Insurance rate will return to it’s current rate and the extra tax will be collected as a new Health and Social Care Levy.
According to the Government, these changes will raise an additional £12bn each year, which will initially be used to ease pressure on the NHS. Over the next three years, a proportion will be moved into the Social Care system.
The aim is to ensure that people in England pay no more than £86,000 in care costs from October 2023 (excluding accommodation and food).
To read more about the increase in NI contributions and how they will be used, please click here .
The current staff shortages that are affecting supply chains up and down the country, across a variety of sectors could last two years according to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry).
These shortages are affecting industries ranging from farming to fast food, with many businesses struggling or failing to meet customer demand as a result.
“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,” said CBI director general Tony Danker.
“Meanwhile some restaurant owners have had to choose between lunchtime and evening services when trying to make the most of summer.”
The pandemic, Brexit and the furlough scheme are just a number of cited contributors to the current disruptions.
To read more about the shortages and the impact they have on British industry, please click here
McDonald’s says it has run out of milkshakes at its restaurants in England, Scotland and Wales.
The fast-food chain said it some supply chain issues had affected availability of a small number of menu items.
These products also include some bottled drinks, which are temporarily unavailable in its 1,250 outlets in England, Scotland, and Wales.
The problems emerged because of low stock distribution caused by the continuing shortage of HGV drivers.
Last week, Nando’s was forced to close about 50 of its restaurants after running out of chicken.
Rival KFC also warned recently that supply chain issues meant it was unable to stock some menu items.
What will be affected next as a result the HGV driver shortage? We’ve been working on a plan to tackle the problem head on and we are excited to share it with you in the coming weeks.
You can read more about how the HGV driver shortage is affecting the food industry here.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said payroll figures rose for the seventh month in a row between May and June, whilst firms saw their need for employees soar as hospitality reopened ahead of the final lifting of COVID restrictions.
This is the biggest increase we’ve seen since 2014.
March to May 2021 showed that employment was at 74.8%, unemployment was at 4.8% and economic inactivity was at 21.3%.
The figures also show that the unemployment dropped once more, to 4.8% between March and May, against 5% from December to February, but in line with a revised figure of 4.8% for the three months to April.
However, despite the increases, the number of payrolled workers has still fallen by 206,000 since the pandemic hit.
Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics, said: “The labour market is continuing to recover, with the number of employees on payroll up again strongly in June.
“The number of job vacancies continued to rise very strongly.
“The biggest sector driving this was hospitality, followed by wholesaling and retailing.
“As the economy gradually reopened, the unemployment rate fell in March to May. This was especially marked for younger people, who had been hardest hit by earlier lockdowns.”