Brexit? IT contractor sector has its final say

IT contractors could find themselves having to upskill end-user staff if the UK votes to leave the EU on Thursday, suggests a briefing by the IT contractor training company of 2015.

In fact, employers who have a high number of EU migrants in key positions should “consider investing more into upskilling” if there’s a Brexit, says a pre-referendum briefing by Capita.

The company’s thinking seems to be that permies will need to be trained quickly so they can cover the jobs of EU nationals who may leave the UK if a Brexit tightens immigration rules.

Such a ‘leave’ outcome on Thursday will disappoint the vast majority of IT contractors’ recruiters, particularly if it ushers in an Australian-style points-based immigration system.

“A points-based system does not outweigh the advantages of EU freedom of movement,” David Taylor, managing director of IT jobs agency First Point Group told ContractorUK.

He explained: “The implementation of such a system would add a layer of red tape that currently doesn’t exist, and create uncertainty in our client-base and business.”

Other IT agencies set to vote ‘remain’ on Thursday include Adecco, owners of Computer People, and Reed, owners of reed.co.uk, the UK’s first online recruitment site.

Armstrong Craven, a City recruiter for banks -- the rate-richest end-user of IT contractors, also wants the UK to retain its EU membership, if London is to avoid a “drain of talent.”

“A vote to leave will inevitably see the financial centre of gravity shifting,” it says. “Banks [will be] …moving to beef up their operations in major European cities such as Paris and Berlin.”

The recruiter has the same post-Brexit expectation as the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE); as it says UK nationals wanting to work in EU member states would need to apply for visas and sponsorship.

Armstrong Craven added: “[In addition], British workers who are married to EU citizens and working in European hubs… may suddenly find themselves having to uproot their families and return to the UK.”

But not all professional staffing specialists oppose a Brexit. The executive search agencies JCR Associates and Lawbrook Partners are set to vote ‘leave’ on Thursday.

And the chairman of staffing giant Pertemps Investments Ltd, Tim Watts, is due to join them.

“A Brexit would give the UK the power to reshape or repeal much of the employment legislation that businesses dislike,” his company says.

“The UK would [also] have greater freedom to decide how statutory holiday pay should be calculated…[while] repealing the Agency Worker Regulations would…be regarded as a ‘quick win’”.

To counter this argument about the AWR, also made by overseas contracting firm its international, one IT contractor took to Twitter.

“Seriously, citing AWR as a reason to ‘leave’? IR35…[and] dividend changes by the UK govt have had a far greater [adverse impact],” he wrote.

Yesterday, another IT contractor contacted ContractorUK about its coverage of the EU referendum, to suggest the most balanced assessment of ‘in’ and ‘out’ was from an academic.   

“This lecture from the Professor of EU Law at Liverpool University Law School I think is the most informative piece of analysis I have seen,” the IT contactor said. “It is based purely on the law.”

In the lecture, Prof Michael Dougan determines that the EU “is not free of problems” but, based on the evidence, says ‘remain’ would be more beneficial for Britain than ‘leave’. 

“It is much easier to do a good job [of reforming the EU] on the inside than it is to do a good job on the outside,” the professor concludes. 

Mr Taylor, of IT recruiters First Point agrees. He told ContractorUK: “Stability is what we need now, and I believe the only thing worse than being in the EU is being out of it.”

His view is the consensus among ‘business leaders’ polled by Reed -- 61% want the UK to stay in the EU, while votes for ‘remain’ fall to a slim majority (56%) among candidates.

These Brexiters cited ‘immigration’ as their second biggest deciding factor (after sovereignty), and IPSE will address immigration and the EU referendum exclusively on ContractorUK tomorrow.

Editor’s Note: Related Reading

IT contractors won’t defy Cameron on Europe

How a Brexit could change EU contracting

Contractors’ Questions: Will IT contracting ‘go Swiss’ in a Brexit?

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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