Shops and hauliers face staff shortages as lockdown lifts


Shops and hauliers face staff shortages as lockdown lifts and the economy roars back to life

Shops and hauliers are struggling to get hold of qualified staff as the economy roars back to life.

Consumers could face higher costs or even empty shelves as the impact of the pandemic collides with post-Brexit problems over visas.

Across the UK, bosses are looking to fill 700,000 vacancies, twice as many as a year ago, despite there still being two million workers on furlough. 

Staff shortages: Across the UK bosses are looking to fill 700,000 vacancies, twice as many as a year ago, despite there still being 2m workers on furlough

The reopening of the High Street last month has led to a scramble to fill vacancies. A third of large retailers have struggled to find qualified staff, according to software firm Fourth, and 47 per cent have said they plan to hire more people this year.

Shops at attractions, including zoos, theme parks and museums, are finding it hardest to hire, followed by chains selling clothing and cars.

Panic has already swept through parts of the hospitality sector as punters return in their droves to splash lockdown savings.

Nine in ten bosses said they expected to face staff shortages this year, according to survey data from consultancy CGA, which said there were ‘widespread concerns about a crisis’ in recruitment.

Some have been forced to offer bonuses of up to £1,000 to encourage staff to take up jobs over the summer to meet staycation demand. 

At the same time, hauliers delivering to high street businesses have reported losing dozens of European staff because their staff do not meet skills thresholds for work visas.

Owens Group, in Carmarthenshire, said it had lost 50 drivers who were EU citizens in the ‘perfect storm’ caused by the pandemic and Brexit. 

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimated that there were between 60,000 and 70,000 unfilled driver jobs.

Many European drivers have lost their right to work in the UK, and tens of thousands of driving tests were cancelled during the lockdown.

The shortages have pushed wages up by a fifth in some cases.

The RHA’s chief executive, Richard Burnett, said: ‘The reopening of non-essential retail outlets and parts of the hospitality sector is making the situation even worse.’ 

He added that Government ‘hostility’ was ‘unhelpful’, and called on ministers to designate drivers as skilled workers.

The mismatch between furloughed staff and vacancies has led many to call for the furlough scheme to be brought to a close early.

Dermot King, chief executive of Oakman Inns, said: ‘I think furlough has done its job. 

There is certainly a case to be made that it’s stopping people coming back to work, particularly European employees who aren’t coming back to the UK.’

But hospitality groups have said the scheme must remain in place until restrictions are lifted, and demand returns, to avoid a tsunami of job losses.



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