Bespoke Brexit deal ‘needed for right public sector staff mix’

3 May 18

It is not credible to assume British workers will fill public sector vacancies once the UK has left the EU, a report from CIPFA’s Brexit Advisory Commission for Public Services has warned.

Only a bespoke agreement between the UK and EU would allow the public sector to recruit the right mix of workers it needs, it said.

Any other arrangement for migration, such as free movement for particular groups or those with a job offer, a points-based system, a preferential system for EU nationals or a work permit system would not meet the recruitment needs of the public sector, the research found.

Julia Goldsworthy, chair of the Brexit Advisory Commission, said an end to freedom of movement from the EU would mean a “seismic change” for public sector recruitment and retention.

“Indeed, even though we haven’t yet left the EU, there has already been a negative impact upon the health and social care workforce,” she said.

“Considering a drop in EU migration would directly affect public services, the UK government must not decide upon their approach to the workforce settlement without seriously taking stock of how best to support the public sector.”

A bespoke deal was the “best option” and should be pursued, she added.

Any workforce deal needs to be flexible enough to allow public sector bodies and providers to recruit the best international talent in, for example, medicine and academia, as well as those with lower levels skills, particularly care workers.

The post-Brexit system also needs to be able to respond to regional demands, avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and be consistent with likely funding levels.

Failure to achieve such a deal is likely to result in trade-offs, such as higher public sector pay or increased immigration from the rest of the world.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said: “Workforce is a piece in the Brexit jigsaw that we can’t afford to mess up.

“If we struck the wrong deal, it would have dire consequences for public services.”

He urged the government to consider extending the formal transition period to allow more time to get arrangements right.

For facts and figures on an EU workforce deal that works for the public sector click on the link below: 

CIPFA Brexit report May 2018
  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and

Did you enjoy this article?