What is your advice on my Brexit recruitment dilemma?

We are an international training and consulting organisation; our European hub is in the UK but most of our business is delivered in continental Europe and beyond. I’m looking to hire another trainer later this year and I have a real dilemma on whether to do so and who to recruit – I would welcome your ideas and thoughts.

It is now clear that UK politicians are pursuing a “hard Brexit” so my business is likely to experience either more limited access to European markets and/or more limited ability of my UK based trainers to travel and deliver services there, as we reduce labour mobility to and from the EU.

Because we are running many training programs each week, and usually at relatively short notice, any kind of visa or approval system for working in the EU would be impossible to manage.

There is no point asking politicians for a concrete answer on this because they genuinely don’t and cannot know. The final terms of Brexit are not theirs to unilaterally define but will be negotiated, with 27 different countries having a right of veto.

It takes me about two years to recruit and train a new person and get them fully effective. These are executive level jobs that create significant tax revenue for the UK and contribute strongly to the UK balance of payments.

If I recruit someone from the UK, by the time they are fully trained they may not have the right to work in the EU. There is not sufficient demand in the UK market alone to retain someone. Because of the cost and time required to do this, this is an unacceptable risk.

If I set up a business in continental Europe, let’s say Ireland, I maintain a toehold in the EU. However, I also add complexity and additional cost to my business. This may be my only medium term option if rules on mobility become strict.

One idea is to recruit someone from another European country who is currently based in the UK. They will then retain the right to work in the EU after any form of Brexit. If they lost the right to stay in the UK (which I think is unlikely for existing migrants) at some point in the future, we could relocate them to Europe and continue to work with them.

I think the idea of advertising for a job based in the UK which excludes UK nationals would be controversial, if rational in this case. I’m not sure if it is even legal.

In the US, we would only recruit people with the right to live and work in the US. Could we advertise that we only accept people for a role who have the guaranteed right to work in the EU in two years’ time? It is a genuine occupational criterion for the job.

The alternative is for me to conclude that it’s not worth recruiting in the UK until things are clearer – and accepting that this could take many years. I would then focus on growing the business in other countries with a permanent loss to the UK balance of payments, revenues and tax.

I share this because it is a real dilemma. I am not making a political point, I voted to remain but accept that we do need to implement the decision of the referendum.

I’m also sharing this because, if I am facing this situation as a relatively small business you can be sure that many businesses in the UK are having the same discussion.

What would you do if you were in my position?

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