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Brexit: How effective translation can help firms keep skilled EU workers

UK employers need to prepare their workforce for Brexit
in Language Connect

With the UK's full withdrawal from the European Union inching ever closer, one of the key concerns for many businesses is ensuring they will be able to access the key skills they need post-Brexit.

In light of this, it's vital that employers take action to ensure EU workers feel supported and have all the information and guidance they need regarding their rights to live and work in the UK.

With accurate communication of paramount importance, translation services could have a key role to play as organisations seek to inform and reassure employees from EU nations, particularly in certain industries that are heavily reliant on this portion of the workforce.

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The Brexit skills challenge

Construction, manufacturing, retail and hospitality are some of the sectors set to be most heavily affected by Brexit and its potential impact on businesses' ability to bring in skilled EU workers.

In the construction sector, for example, research has shown that one in three firms are already feeling the effects of Britain's impending departure from the EU. In an employer survey conducted by the Construction Industry Training Board, nearly half of respondents said they expect the recruitment of skilled workers to become more difficult over the next two years.

A Totaljobs study involving businesses from various sectors, published earlier this year, found that half of UK companies expect Brexit to exacerbate skills shortages.

Almost two-thirds of the 1,355 companies surveyed said their own organisation is likely to experience negative consequences because of a shortage of workers with key expertise. Just under a quarter expressed fears that the skills gap will make it difficult for the UK to compete on the global stage.

David Clift, human resources director at the online jobs board, said: "As we head closer towards Brexit, employers will have to think differently about how they attract and retain the best talent from across the globe."

These findings underline just how important it is for individual firms – as well as industry associations and the government – to mitigate skills shortages and enable business success by putting clear plans and policies in place to support EU workers.

'Security and certainty'

The Home Office has taken steps to help employers reassure and assist EU citizens as they apply for settled status in the UK. A recently launched toolkit is designed to help organisations, industry associations and community groups provide practical advice for workers originally from EU countries. It includes videos, how-to guides, leaflets and posters detailing how companies can help staff register for a new immigration status that will be legally required after Brexit.

Home secretary Sajid Javid said: "Our settlement scheme will offer security and certainty to EU citizens living in the UK. Once the scheme has launched, employers, industry groups and charities will play a vital role in ensuring they can secure their status quickly and easily."

A phased opening of the scheme will begin later this year and it will be fully open by March 30th 2019, with an application deadline of June 30th 2021.

While initiatives such as this could provide some reassurance for EU nationals, there is still a lot of uncertainty and concern around Brexit, particularly in light of recent speculation about the possibility of a 'no-deal' scenario. This could be a less likely prospect in light of recent reports indicating progress in the withdrawal negotiations, but it remains crucial for employers to take action to support their valued employees and give them all the information they need.

Using translation to attract and retain staff

The scale of the staff retention and recruitment challenge facing some UK employers was underlined by recent data from the Office for National Statistics. The figures showed that the number of people moving to the UK from EU countries had fallen to its lowest level for four years.

With this in mind, organisations should be doing everything they can to provide important information to EU workers and answer any questions they may have.

In cases where skilled EU citizens have the right to settle in the UK but are faced with complicated application processes, red tape and costs, those who are not highly proficient in the English language could be deterred from applying and tempted to leave the UK. The onus is therefore on employers to assist existing workers and attract new staff by making the relevant guidance and information available in other languages.

Fast and accurate language services – such as translation of key documents – could prove more important than ever for firms that want to improve their engagement with EU workers and support existing employees.

Those that succeed on this front will maximise their chances of ongoing success and profitability post-Brexit.

Image: fizkes via iStock

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