Trade associations and the recruitment industry have been responding to the seismic result of last week’s “Brexit” vote in the EU referendum.

Julia Kermode, CEO of the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA), which represents Umbrella Companies Employees and other contracting professionals, said that the referendum result meant “business as usual” for the FCSA, which would continue to protect the UK’s flexible workforce that had proven vital to the country’s economic growth in recent years.

She added: “Leaving the EU will undoubtedly bring a period of uncertainty and as we have witnessed in the run up to this referendum demand for contractors has been high and I see this demand increasing particularly if the rules on immigration tighten up.”

Although the stock markets took a significant hit immediately after the referendum result, Ms Kermode observed that the EU exit will not be instantaneous and that stability was required now more than ever to ensure that employers had access to needed skills. She continued: “Once again, the flexible workforce will be key in ensuring the UK’s economy doesn’t suffer.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies’ (APSCo’s) Operations Director, Samantha Hurley, conceded that the EU’s influence over social and employment policy had been rejected by the electorate, who had decided that the experiment hasn’t worked for the UK. While we were at an early stage, she added, the result opens the prospect of EU-derived legislation such as the Agency Workers’ Directive (AWD) being reformed.

There was consensus amongst all commentators from trade bodies and the recruitment industry that a period of uncertainty would undoubtedly ensue. The CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), Kevin Green, also concurred with Ms Hurley and Ms Kermode that the vote will not mean overnight changes.

A prolonged period of renegotiation and readjustment would be necessary, he said, and Government will need to do everything it can to assist UK businesses to grow and create jobs. He called for an outlined timetable of renegotiation to assist organisations in making informed strategic decisions and for clarity from policy-makers over planned changes to EU employment regulations such as the AWD.

He added: “Employers, educators and Government must seize the initiative and create a pipeline of talent so that individuals and businesses continue to thrive in the post-EU era.”

Chris Bryce, CEO of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), said: “Priorities should be new global trading arrangements, cutting burdensome regulation on small and micro businesses and ensuring that Britain has the most flexible and attractive economy in the world. With these priorities, the UK can be a place where freelancing and contracting can thrive.”

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