Why Is The UK Facing A Candidate Shortage?

June 22, 2022

By the end of 2021, the UK was facing the worst shortage of candidates on record, and things haven’t improved much since then. As lockdown restrictions eased and workers returned to the office, many employers expected a surge in candidates as the end of furlough support meant that employers had to make a decision.

As businesses ramped up activity again, many found that their attempts to hire new staff were hampered by a number of factors. Let’s explore what changes to the UK job market are fuelling the candidate shortage.

Changes to working preferences

The pandemic forced many people to reconsider big life decisions like where to live and how to spend their time. It could be that the candidates you need to fill your roles are still out there, they’ve just moved away from where the jobs are. 

Many candidates have quit city living in favour of cheaper rents in smaller towns. Some have returned to the family nest. And some have decided that they would rather work from home permanently. 

It’s now up to employers to decide how best to encourage these workers back into the cities, or else determine how to allow them to work from home. Some jobs simply cannot be done remotely, but for those that can, it could be time for employers to think seriously about how this can be achieved in the long term if they want to be able to fill vacancies.

Reluctance to move roles

The pandemic may have made candidates nervous about their position. Those who would have been more open to exploring new opportunities are now looking for job security rather than new opportunities.

Seeing friends and family on furlough throughout the pandemic and then made redundant when the furlough scheme ended may have made some nervous about the prospect of starting a new role. There is far less confidence, which means candidates are more likely to stay put for the time being.

Fewer EU candidates

The end of free movement with the EU has certainly had a significant impact on the availability of skilled workers. The pandemic travel restrictions prompted many EU workers to head back to their home country, rather than risk being cut off.

The Brexit settled status deadline will also have prompted some EU citizens to move away from the UK, rather than deal with the red tape. It is estimated that the UK lost around 200,000 EU citizens due to Brexit and the pandemic. 

Rising living costs

The rising cost of living combined with a candidate shortage is creating a perfect storm of candidates pushing for higher salaries. Knowing that they are in demand, candidates are using the opportunity to leverage their position to command higher salaries. 

Rather than a race to the bottom, with many candidates chasing the same role, employers now find themselves in the position of having to offer higher salaries to attract the best talent. But when higher salaries are on offer, employers need to make sure they are getting value. This means they are chasing the most skilled candidates, 

Skills shortage

We’re also facing the reality that we might have the workers, but we don’t have the right skills. Skill shortages coupled with increasingly strict immigration rules make it more difficult for companies to find the skills they need. While many people may have been made redundant during the pandemic, they would need to be reskilled before they can reenter the workforce where they are needed the most.

How can companies weather the storm?

If you are currently struggling to fill vacancies in your business, there are a few things you can do to help increase your chances of finding suitable candidates.

  • Consider a hybrid working model. If full-time WFH doesn’t fit your business, consider how a hybrid model might be used to tempt workers into roles. Many employees aren’t ready to give up the perks of a better work/life balance.
  • Don’t waste time. The best candidates won’t stick around for long, so be prompt in your responses and direct with your offers.
  • Create incentives employees actually want. You might think a free gym membership is a considerable perk, but if your employees really want a more generous pension scheme, it’s worth listening to what would actually improve their lives.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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