Brexit, life sciences and the future

It’s been two years since the UK voted to leave the EU, and the life sciences sector is already starting to feel the effects. Attracting and retaining highly skilled people into the UK to work in the sector is increasingly challenging, and the uncertainty over immigration status and visa requirements continue to muddy the waters. Despite the government’s flagship Industrial Strategy deal for the life sciences sector, questions still remain over the details of the plans, and whether there are even going be the right skilled staff in the UK to benefit from it.

Global Mobility workforce trends

The Life Sciences Sector group recently met at REC HQ to discuss these issues and to look at trends in the global mobility workforce. The meeting was chaired by Ricky Martin (Managing Director of Hyper Recruitment Solutions) and Elliot Tiffin from Hobson Prior took the group through some of their research and data. 40 per cent of workers in the sector have relocated internationally, and 48 per cent who haven’t relocated, would consider doing so. Most people chose to move for international experience and better career progression, although interestingly 14 per cent of perm professionals returned home within their first year, and 43 per cent returned within two years.

Most Western European respondents to the research moved to Switzerland, followed by the UK and then the US. Conversely, Eastern European workers preferred the UK, followed by Germany. Time will tell how these trends will continue after the UK officially leaves the EU, and may well be dependent upon what immigration rules are adopted post-Brexit.

“Brexidous” – now is the time to come to the UK!

With the progression of the Brexit negotiations and the government repeating its message that they want to reduce immigration to the “tens of thousands”, the UK is no longer seen as an attractive place for EU workers – with almost an air of hostility. The EU talent pool has already been disrupted; reflected by Office for National Statistics data showing that migration from the EU is at its lowest since 2012.

The group heard from Stephen Hall and Jonathan Bruck, immigration lawyers from Kerman & Co. who took us through some of the likely changes to immigration and visa rules. Free movement of people will continue in the ‘transition period’ from 29th March 2019 until the 31st December 2020,  and EU nationals who are lawful residents in the UK can then apply for residence after that – these residents will then be on a pathway to permanent residence. The key take home message for life sciences’ recruiters is that you should encourage EU nationals to move to the UK now, before the ‘doors are closed’.

Future recruiters

The REC Life Sciences Sector group continues to be a leading force in the recruitment industry, with an emphasis on innovation, development and training of the next generation of recruiters. Fallon Gilhooley, Global Client Partner at Armstrong Craven and REC Life Sciences Executive Committee member led a session on how we can support consultants. Key themes emerging from the discussion was the need to place an emphasis on helping consultants to develop longevity of relationships, time management, building confidence, dealing with difficult conversations and the need to become subject matter experts.