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Next boss says overseas workers are needed to solve shortages

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

7 Oct 2021

Retail

The UK is facing an exodus of foreign workers in the wake of Brexit, with shortages potentially disrupting the retail industry. As the busy Christmas season approaches, many companies will suffer staffing problems.

High street retailer Next believes the labour shortages could be solved if foreign workers could be hired via a ‘visa tax.’ The company said it did not have sufficient access to staff, including for its warehouses and logistics. Seasonal workers were difficult to recruit, Next ceo Lord Wolfson told the BBC’s Today programme.

Lord Wolfson suggests businesses could get visas for skills they “desperately need” and recommended that they should have to pay UK workers the same amount as overseas workers. To make this competitive, he argued businesses should have to pay a “visa tax on top - lets say 7 percent of wages”.

“We need to design a system that delivers the skills but at the same time makes sure UK workers are not deprived of opportunities that they might want,” he said.

He added that this solution would “ensure people are not being brought into the UK to undercut UK workers because they will always be more expensive and it provides the skills Britain desperately needs to keep its industry moving”.

He suggested that only UK businesses should be able to apply for these visas, rather than workers, and that it should not cost the employers more than recruiting in the UK.

The retail chain currently pays store sales consultants and stock assistants between 6.55 pounds to 9.21 pounds an hour and warehouse operatives between 9.30 pounds and 11.26 pounds an hour. In London the Living Wage rate is 10.85 pounds per hour and the rate for the rest of the UK is 9.50 pounds per hour.

Worker shortages are a growing problem in Britain, which saw a record 1 million job vacancies between June and August, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Article source: BBC

Image: Artem Beliaikin / Unsplash