Employment

Lorry drivers and nurses offered thousands in bonuses amid staffing crisis

Customers could foot the bill for rising costs to keep supermarket lorries on the road and shelves stocked

Employers are offering mammoth bonuses for lorry drivers and nurses in efforts to urgently hire new workers after the pandemic and Brexit drove the sectors into critical staff shortages.

Tesco and Asda are offering a £1,000 bonus for new HGV drivers, while care company HC One is trying to lure new recruits with a £10,000 incentive for registered night nurses.

Research by  job search experts Adzuna suggested this could partly be down to the so-called ‘pingdemic’, with high numbers of lorry drivers and shop workers encouraged to self isolate after being contacted by the NHS or its test and trace app. Iceland previously announced it would recruit 2,000 temporary staff to help supermarkets cope with the volume of workers told to stay home by Test and Trace.

There is a shortfall of around 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), leaving some supermarket shelves empty as the supply chain struggles for deliveries. The RHA called on the government to make commercial HGV drivers exempt from self-isolation if they are double vaccinated and test negative for Covid-19.

The industry is facing “critical short-term issues” compounded by low pay and the high number of EU citizen drivers forced to leave the UK after Brexit, according to Richard Burnett — the association’s chief executive — who warned customers could foot the bill for the higher costs of recruiting. Ministers’ pledges to make it easier for people to train and stay in the sector would do little to cut the shortage this year, he added.

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“The problem is immediate, and we need to have access to drivers from overseas on short-term visas,” Burnett said. “The idea to simplify training and speed up testing is welcome, along with encouraging recruitment it will only improve things in a year or two’s time.”

Job openings in the retail sector have increased 14 per cent in the past four weeks, according to the research by Adzuna — from 27,139 to 30,958 — the highest since November 2018. Meanwhile the number of vacancies in logistics and warehousing has soared by 263 per cent compared to this time last year.

Nearly 700,000 people across the country were told to self-isolate in the week to July 21, a record high.

More than 72,000 of jobs (6.5 per cent) currently advertised across the UK are marked as “urgent” or ask new recruits to start immediately as employers clambered to keep businesses afloat in the fallout of lockdown.

“The pingdemic has hit just as businesses start to get to grips with filling open roles,” said Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna. “The struggle to hire is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses, with hundreds of thousands of workers still on furlough, hesitation among others to go back to work, fewer overseas workers available to fill positions, and a lack of skilled staff in some sectors.”

Some people are being forced to miss out on interviews or starting new jobs due to self isolation, Hunter added, with “pent-up demand” in sectors such as construction and manufacturing as projects are delayed and the pressure to find staff intensifies.

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