Skip to main content

UK employers facing staffing squeeze as number of vacancies hit record high

Employers face the worst candidate shortage on record as Brexit, and a post-lockdown surge in the economy are impacting recruitment.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) reveals that employers are growing increasingly frustrated as vacancies reach 1.66 million, with that figure expected to rise in the next few months. The staffing squeeze has been made worse by employees reluctant to change roles because of the pandemic, a shrinking pool of EU workers, and nationwide skill shortages.

Candidate shortages highest on record

The hiring of permanent roles hit the highest in the REC survey’s 24 years history, while salaries rose at the fastest rate on record. But, with a decreasing talent pool of candidates, businesses such as pub chains, supermarkets, and fast-food restaurants want the government to extend the Shortage Occupation List to allow more overseas workers to fill vacancies in crucial job roles. The posts currently covered by the approved list include health workers, architects, vets, scientists, engineers, and, rather surprisingly, orchestral musicians.

The ten jobs where worker shortages are currently at their worst, according to industry data and figures from the REC, are:

• Carpenters and joiners

• Metal working production and maintenance fitters

• Cleaners

• Retail and sale assistants

• Chefs

• Nursery and primary teaching professionals

• Care workers

• Software development professionals and programmers

• Nurses

• HGV drivers

Ambulance drivers, veterinary nurses, postal workers, bricklayers, butchers, specialist welders, and farm workers also have an exceptionally high vacancy rate.

Regional candidate shortages 

As the UK doesn’t just have one single labour market with infinitely mobile workers, there are local candidate shortages across the country. For the East Midlands, nursing is the region’s most difficult to fill vacancies, while the East of England has the unenviable position of having the longest list of candidate shortfalls.

The region is struggling to fill the roles of business executives, veterinarians, design and development engineers, nurses and other medical practitioners.

The North East is also experiencing a shortage of medical practitioners, nurses, graphic designers, software development professionals, programmers, human resources, and industrial relations officers.

The Northwest has the most difficult sales positions to fill than any other region. It also has one of the highest shortages of accountants, youth workers, housing professionals, recruitment professionals and nurses.

The West Midlands has a notable shortage of engineering staff, nurses, human resources and sales staff. Yorkshire, however, is struggling to fill roles in marketing, child and early years, IT operations and electrical engineering.

London, meanwhile, is struggling to fill roles in sales and marketing, consultancy, recruitment and IT. While the South East benefits from a strong graduate labour market, it does have the largest shortage of nurses, housing, insurance and IT support. Meanwhile, the South West is experiencing a short supply of legal professionals, software development professionals, programmers, and medical practitioners.

Impact on UK business 

The UK-wide candidate shortage poses a real threat to the ability of employers to compete in a rapidly evolving market. Candidate shortages and a lack of skills prevent businesses from being agile in a changeable economic, political and technological climate when flexibility and adaptability are crucial.

But while expanding their workforces, poaching talent from competitors or increasing salaries are not long-term sustainable solutions, employers are forced to pay a high price to ensure their workforce has the necessary skills to remain productive.

The candidate shortage costs UK businesses an additional £6.33 billion a year in recruitment costs, inflated salaries, temporary workers and training for staff hired at a lower level than desired. The recruitment process typically takes longer when candidates are in short supply, around one month and 22 days more.

This means that not only will recruitment cost employers more money; it can also mean that talented candidates with in-demand skills can take advantage of their strong position to drive up wages.

Many organisations find themselves forced to give up on finding the talent they want and instead leave the role vacant or hire someone at a lower level and spend more money on training these workers to bring them up to the required level.

HR and recruitment support 

If you have vacancies you are trying to fill, HR Solutions is here to help. Our fixed fee recruitment service can help your business search and secure new talent. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how our range of HR Services can help your business.

Interested in what we do?

Get the latest news from HR Solutions delivered to your inbox