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How to Recruit Internationally After Brexit

  • by: Jonny Kramer
  • On: 11, Jan 2021
5 min read

The Covid-19 pandemic ensured that the New Year began with a mountain of challenges for the business world. With a Brexit deal announced just before 2020 drew to a close, the eventual outcome of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union will mean permanent changes for organisations across industries, both in the UK and in the EU.

Hiring internationally will present great challenges for organisations across sectors, alongside a wealth of opportunities to access fresh talent and create new ideas and solutions.

Here are five ways that businesses around the world can continue to find the best talent and drive business growth following Brexit.

5 Ways UK Businesses Can Grow Their International Teams After Brexit


1. Understand and Take Advantage of the Fine Print

Although 25% of UK businesses currently employ European nationals, over half of British business leaders are concerned about employing an EU citizen due to potential changes in immigration laws. However, many Human Resources departments and senior teams may not be fully aware that British businesses can still access a notable section of the European workforce with little to no red tape:

  • Skilled Scientists and those working in Technology, Research, Academia or Arts and Culture can quickly move to the UK under the Global Talent Scheme, even without a guaranteed formal job offer
  • EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and other non-visa nationals do not require a visa when visiting the UK for up to 6 months (however they will need to apply for the Right to Work), which could provide valuable talent to the contract workforce
  • EU citizens who were already living in the UK before 2021 must hold or have applied for UK immigration status to legally work in the UK. Workers who have applied for and received Settled Status are already eligible to work in Britain
  • A new graduate immigration route will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. Organisations can employ these international graduates at any skill level for up to two years (rising to three years for PhD graduates)
  • Individuals who were born in the UK or are citizens of the European Economic Area will automatically have the right to work in the UK, but will need to apply for a residence permit. 

Skilled workers with a job offer from an approved employer sponsor will also be able to begin a UK-based role. Under the new rules, your potential hire will need qualifications or certifications equivalent to A Levels and must be fluent in the English language. Salary requirements also apply for some roles. Businesses can find more information on the new immigration system on the UK Government’s website.

2. Make Cross-Departmental Collaboration the Norm

With new immigration rules and a longer time to hire, hiring managers and recruitment agencies will need to work harder to attract European talent. The right to work, the Settlement Scheme and the updates to existing legislation that are expected to follow in 2021 and 2022 will require Compliance departments to take centre stage in the hiring process, and play a key role in supporting candidate screening and selection.

In 2021, Human Resources teams, department managers and Board Directors will collaborate to adopt a longer-term talent attraction strategy that both retains existing talent pools and plans for international recruitment needs in the coming decade. Tighter regulation will encourage companies to work much more closely with their recruitment agency suppliers to build a full workforce management solution.

3. Diversify and Add Innovation to Job Advertising

Whilst some European candidates may now be harder to reach, UK businesses have the chance to turn the challenge into an opportunity. Globalisation and the accelerated adoption of technology in the past year means that potential talent of all nationalities can be reached digitally, from anywhere in the world.

Innovative British businesses can stand out in the global market and reach candidates across the continent in a variety of ways:

  • Advertise on international job boards. Research around to find up and coming websites focused on hiring diverse talent and younger generations who will not yet have been approached by UK competitors
  • Reach out to candidates where they already congregate online, such as local industry publication websites, message boards that act as popular support networks in your sector, and social media channels that are popular in European countries like LinkedIn, Xing and Facebook
  • Enlist the help of your UK-based employees who are also EU nationals themselves. Tell their stories and their experiences, and use their video and written testimonials, to encourage other candidates with similar backgrounds to envisage themselves working for you and inspire them to apply
  • Some EU residents may be nervous around the UK’s lockdown situation and unsure of the new immigration rules after Brexit. Host webinars to provide a more in-depth view of your company and what it’s like to work there. Hold a Q&A so that potential candidates can speak directly with and receive reassurance from the senior leadership team to encourage them to apply for your vacancies.


4. Retain and Promote Internally 

With Brexit seeing a 95% decline in the number of EU workers travelling to the UK to live and work, retaining European nationals will be one of the main methods to taking a business forward with a workforce that includes international talent. However, with 34% of business leaders reporting challenges in retaining staff from the EU, how can companies reassure their EU staff, protect job security and continually engage their European employees?

The most popular methods for increasing employee engagement across the board include:

  • Flexible working
  • Learning and development opportunities
  • Work-life balance
  • Benefits such as holiday incentives, childcare vouchers and gym memberships
  • Positive working culture and friendly, collaborative teams.

In addition to providing a positive overall working experience, employers can help reassure their European employees by communicating with them proactively and regularly to update them on sponsorship, visas and legal employment requirements. Sending out regular messages of support for international staff from senior leaders will facilitate an open and accepting culture across the business. Creating dedicated support groups will enable international staff members to connect with and support each other, and promoting helplines and useful resources will enable staff to navigate legal applications.

5. Partner with an International Recruitment Agency

Although many staffing partners can prove valuable by saving time and resources when looking for new hires, recruitment agencies with an international focus will have developed strong networks around the world that your company can access instantly. Recruiters with a long-standing global footprint will not only have a presence in and knowledge of the local market place, but can provide advice tailored specifically for your requirements and guide you on defining and identifying the ideal candidate for your organisation.

International staffing specialists will have first-hand experience and deep understanding of:

  • Visas and work permits
  • Legislation required for different types of employee, such as the IR35 requirements for UK contractors
  • Common problems or challenges that can be planned for to avoid risk
  • Acclimatisation and the support that new hires from overseas will most benefit from.

VHR are international inside and out: our teams are former technicians and Engineers, meaning we truly understand our market, and our teams originate from all over the world, collectively speaking 15 languages.

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