Business uncertainty over the forthcoming post-Brexit economic landscape has caused a significant decline in work permits for non-EU accountants and a concomitant surge in demand for contracting professionals with expertise in finance, research from a specialist contractor accountancy company has revealed.
Statistics obtained by SJD Accountancy show a 5.6 per cent decline in the number of work permits issued to non-EU accounting and finance professionals during 2016, reflecting a growing trend among UK organisations to hire contracting professionals to plug skills gaps.
While the number of work permits issued to non-EU finance and accounting professionals dropped from 3,495 in 2015 to 3,300 in 2016, separate research reveals a 57 per cent surge in demand for finance and accounting contractors since last summer’s Brexit vote, as hirers froze permanent recruitment and turned to contractors to meet demand.
Gaining a Tier 2 visa to hire a non-EU worker requires substantial certainty that demand for that worker’s skills will remain solid in the medium- to long-term. Since the EU referendum result, many UK organisations have had second thoughts about the wisdom of this strategy in the context of pressing uncertainty over what the post-Brexit future holds. As a result, hirers have chosen to appoint contracting professionals instead.
SJD Accountancy’s CEO, Derek Kelly, noted that demand for contracting professionals with accountancy expertise has gathered momentum since the Brexit vote, after which hirers grew more reticent about committing to permanent hires. Drafting in non-EU workers, he emphasised, requires a high degree of commitment – something that hirers are less inclined towards in the context of rising uncertainty about the future.
Mr Kelly said that Brexit uncertainty is likely to have influenced more work permit sponsors to suspend this strategy in favour of seeking contractors to fill skills gaps.
He added, “There is strong demand for accountancy and finance contractors in areas such as compliance, audit and tax. This is partly being driven by the profession’s supply side problem. Baby boomers are retiring or eschewing complex areas like tax, while the cutbacks made to graduate programmes and training during the downturn are still being felt.
“Far from weakening demand for accountancy and finance skills, Brexit is likely to fuel demand as companies adapt their business models and grapple with the financial and tax implications.”
However, Mr Kelly also emphasised that the shortage of tax professionals in the UK is especially acute as businesses endeavour to work their way through increasingly intricate and changing tax laws.
As these organisations are increasingly international and prone to having foreign subsidiaries, they have to manage country-by-country reporting requirements – work that is inherently cyclical with bouts of intense activity and therefore “ideally suited to contractors,” according to Mr Kelly.