For the first time in our history, we have recruitment problems. We are struggling to find Helpers to work with us.
In the past, sharing the benefits of working with Just Helpers – our great working conditions, paying at least the London Living Wage, our caring, supportive values – has been enough to attract the right people.
But now, we’re experiencing real difficulties. And we are not alone in our recruitment problems.
A recent report highlighted critical staff shortages in several sectors including retail, warehousing, airport baggage handling, cleaning, and hospitality. In fact, one quarter of medium sized UK companies are experiencing serious recruitment problems which threaten normal operations.
Why Recruitment Problems?
Anecdotally, we hear there’s unease amongst the sections of our communities who would often come to work for us. People who moved to live in the UK from parts of Europe such as Bulgaria, are feeling more uncertain. Since Brexit, they may feel unwelcome here. And the rise in the cost of living is adding to their worries. They are looking for higher pay than sectors like cleaning can afford.
Brexit has introduced restrictions on freedom to move to the UK for work. The emphasis is on highly qualified people, or those with skills which are under-represented in the UK workforce. Sadly, the list of Shortage Occupations” does not include many traditionally “blue collar” sectors such as cleaning. And with over 1.66 million active job adverts recorded in August 2021, UK job seekers are not choosing to work in cleaning.
The Pay Dilemma
You may be asking, why don’t we simply increase pay to attract people to work with us? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Small cleaning businesses may afford to do this, because their turnover is below the threshold for VAT. However, for medium-sized businesses like ours, the tax burden means that we cannot afford to increase pay without increasing our charges to our clients. And we know our clients are feeling the pinch too.
As well as the recruitment problems, this situation brings other ugly consequences. It plays into the “cash in hand” culture, which places workers at risk of breaking the law if they don’t declare their income. In addition, it further disadvantages bonafide, ethical businesses like ours who want to do the right thing.
So what is the solution to this recruitment crisis in the cleaning industry?
A Potential Workforce
There are thousands of people in the UK right now who are desperate to work, but are prevented from seeking a job because of their immigration status.
The war in Ukraine has brought refugees to this country who want to build a new life for themselves and their families. Ukrainian citizens who have family in the UK, or who are sponsored under the “Homes for Ukraine” scheme, can get a visa which enables them to work here.
However, for those outside of these schemes, the usual points-based immigration system applies, which means Ukrainians who could fill vacancies in sectors such as cleaning, would not be eligible.
In addition, in the UK there are many people who have fled countries other than Ukraine, who are unable to work. These are asylum seekers, who may have to wait months or years for their asylum claim to be processed. During this time they are not allowed get a job, and are trying to survive on as little as £5.66 per day. And under new plans from the UK government, those arriving through illegal routes may be sent across the world to Rwanda.
This seems illogical, as well as inhumane. In a situation which echoes that which brought the Windrush generation to our aid after the Second World War, we need people to fill our vacancies in these key sectors.
Allowing asylum seekers to work in sectors where we have a real recruitment crisis would help the UK economy. It would alleviate shortages on supermarket shelves, and reduce the need for price rises for consumers. And it would give real hope and dignity to people who are simply looking for a safe place to live.
Just Helpers was founded in response to the exploitation of vulnerable people in our cities – including migrant workers. We provide our people with decent working conditions, fair pay and the chance to reach their potential through support and mentoring.
We would welcome the opportunity to recruit people from Ukraine, and elsewhere, who share our values and want to be part of the Just Helpers family. Because we need them to grow our business, just as much as they need us.
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