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How are Brexit border controls affecting warehousing?

10/11/21

When the UK left the European Union (EU) on 1st January 2021, the freedom to live and work between the UK and EU came to an end and new border controls were introduced.

As a result, certain sectors are now reporting an employment crisis that is impacting the global supply chain.

Brexit border controls

Following Brexit, employees from the EU hoping to work in the UK now have to use a new point-based system. The new system means that:

  • UK borders are closed to non-skilled workers and all migrants will have to speak English
  • Anyone wanting to come to work in the UK must have a job offer with a salary threshold of £25,600
  • The skills threshold for foreign nationals wanting to work in the UK will be lowered from degree to A-levels or equivalent
  • There will be no route for self-employed people coming to the UK

The impact on warehousing

Before Brexit, around 1 in 5 warehouse workers were EU migrants. But, after Brexit, the government stopped giving priority to people from overseas.

Not only this, but many eastern European workers chose to leave the UK. Many formerly UK-based European workers have, for example, opted to go and work in France or Germany instead, where they do not need visas.

For warehouses, this is already having a significant impact on staffing levels and operations.

In fact, according to the UK Warehousing Association, the industry is now tens of thousands of workers short. Not only this but many warehouses are having to increase their pay for entry-level jobs by 20-30% to secure the workers they need. With many in the industry operating on low margins, these increased costs will need to be passed on.

And this chronic shortage of workers is expected to get worse over the busy Christmas period when European staff would previously have arrived to work on short-term contracts in warehouses and distribution centres. 

This all comes at a time when the shift from physical stores to online shopping means more labour is needed in warehouses than ever.

How automation can help

With the ongoing labour shortages caused by Brexit’s border controls, the most viable choice for many companies is fast becoming a matter of increasing efficiency, and that means automation.

Businesses whose warehouses are predominately manual, without any investment in automation, will potentially have to extend their standard delivery times and withdraw next-day delivery options. Online businesses may also need to rationalise their product ranges, dropping low-value items that demand a disproportionate amount of warehouse labour.

By automating certain processes and giving employees the tools and training they need to optimise their productivity, warehouses can manage with their reduced staffing levels without reducing output. 

To find out more about how our cost-effective warehouse management systems can help ensure your warehouse maintains productivity and efficiency, please get in touch.