Brexit '˜brain drain' warning for Scotland's tech firms

Employers in the field of digital technologies have been urged to start planning how to retain European Union workers following Brexit.

Brodies partner Lynne Marr said companies should review the immigration status of all employees. Picture: Contributed
Brodies partner Lynne Marr said companies should review the immigration status of all employees. Picture: Contributed

In its latest briefing ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU, trade body ScotlandIS said the industry is already facing a skills shortage and firms should take steps now to ensure they still have access to those with the best talents.

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Scotland’s software and IT businesses alone employed 4,000 non-UK EU nationals in 2015, accounting for 11.5 per cent of the workforce.

Lynne Marr, an employment law specialist and partner at legal firm Brodies, which worked with ScotlandIS on the briefing, said companies should start by reviewing the residency status of all employees, and organise sessions with immigration law experts “to provide their staff with objective information on their options”.

She added: “There are plans for the UK government to bring forward an immigration bill setting out a framework for a new immigration system. Different options are being discussed and it is possible that a whole new system for EU and non-EU citizens could be designed.”

ScotlandIS research and policy manager Svea Miesch said: “Understandably the future status and rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK is a subject of particular importance and concern for our members. Many of Scotland’s digital technologies companies employ staff from other EU countries but that is not the only issue. We have companies that are owned by non-UK EU nationals, and EU students studying at Scottish universities are an important source of future talent for our industry.

“It’s important to note that nothing will change until at least March 2019 when the UK leaves the EU. Until then, the UK has to guarantee freedom of movement for citizens of other EU countries.”

ScotlandIS said it was developing proposals on a future immigration system that would serve the needs of Scotland’s digital technologies industry and “allow businesses to continue to thrive”.

Miesch said: “We are keen to hear from our members and others in the business community with suggestions and experiences of hiring and retaining international talent in Scotland’s digital economy.”

IT recruitment specialist Cathcart Associates was the exclusive recruitment partner at the recent Digit IT Leaders conference, held at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth.

Managing director Gordon Kaye said: “Conferences like these are a brilliant opportunity for everyone to come together and learn from one another.”