Half of UK businesses have faced skills or labour shortages in the past year but only a few are actively looking overseas to fill vacancies, according to new research.
The survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in partnership with Middlesex University London, polled over 1,400 business people. It found that 48% of firms had faced skills or labour shortages in the past 12 months. Of these, most tackled the shortages by increasing investment in recruitment (35%), training (31%) and pay and benefits (29%).
The survey found that only 8% of businesses specifically tried to recruit non-UK nationals overseas. When trying to fill vacancies, UK companies were most likely to rely on word of mouth (51%) and posting adverts on job search websites (43%). The BCC says these results challenge the myth that UK firms are ignoring local workers in favour of overseas labour.
Four in ten UK businesses currently have employees from other EU countries on their workforce, while 23% have employees from outside the EU. 38% of businesses say future restrictions on the rights of EU nationals to work in the UK would have a negative impact on their business.
The BCC is calling on the Government to provide clarity on the process for hiring EU nationals during and after the Brexit process to ensure business growth isn't hampered by labour shortages.
Jane Gratton, BCC head of business environment and skills, said: "Skills and labour shortages are prevalent across the economy, with half of UK businesses struggling to fill vacancies in the last year.
"While companies rarely target workers from outside the UK, the internet allows people from all over the world to see and apply for opportunities here. Many of our businesses benefit from having a diverse workforce with staff members from across the EU and beyond, bringing with them a range of skillsets. As the Migration Advisory Committee looks at the UK's immigration system going forward, it must bear in mind the needs of businesses."