Pret warns of Brexit recruitment crisis

Only one in 50 applicants for jobs is British

(Image credit: Jack Taylor / Getty)

The popular sandwich chain Pret a Manger has warned that it could face a recruitment crisis if Brexit leads to a sharp clampdown on immigration and overseas workers.

Speaking to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee yesterday, Andrea Wareham, Pret's human resources chief, said that just one in 50 applicants for jobs at the chain was British.

"If I had to fill all our vacancies in British-only applicants I would not be able to fill them... because of a lack of applications," she said.

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Lord Darling, a former chancellor, quizzed Wareham on whether the issue was to do with wages, but she denied that higher pay would encourage more applicants. According to the London Evening Standard, she said the issue was to do with public perceptions of the industry among British nationals.

Wareham said: "I actually don't think increasing pay would do the trick. I can only talk for Pret on this, but we do pay well above the national living wage, we do have great benefits and we offer fantastic careers.

"It really is a case of do people want to work in our industry? We are not seen always as a desirable place to work and I think that's the trick."

Pret pays workers in London and other major cities an £8.50 per hour starting rate, which is well above the legal minimum pay rate but below the £9.75 voluntary living wage.

The high street chain also offers £100 bonuses based on customer satisfaction – and it says pay progression can be rapid.

The starting package of £16,000 a year can become "really good money ", she said – citing pay, including bonuses, rising to £40,000 to £45,000 "within a few years", says The Guardian.

Pret employs people from 110 nationalities, with 65 per cent of its workforce coming from EU countries other than Britain. Only 20 per cent of its workforce was born here, although the figure is up from 17 per cent last year.

"We are entirely accepting that the number of EU nationals will go down over time. We would love to increase the number of British nationals and we are excited about this," Wareham said.

"It takes a long time to change hearts and minds. We need to work with education, career services, with parents, to find ways to collaborate."

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