A Brexit vote on Thursday could spell turmoil for employers already squeezed to capacity, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has today warned.
Commenting on REC's most recent JobsOutlook survey, REC chief executive Kevin Green said: "A vote to remain in the EU could release pent up demand, with a mini hiring boom over the second half of the year. On the other hand, a vote to leave is likely to see employers abandoning projects, shelving new expenditure and implementing hiring freezes during a prolonged period of uncertainty.
"We also have major concerns about the impact Brexit would have on lower-paid sectors which rely heavily on workers from the EU, such as hospitality, healthcare and farming."
The survey, which questioned 600 employers, discovered that many are already maxing out the potential of their current workforce, with 30 per cent of those quizzed describing themselves as working at full capacity and a further 50 per cent noting that they had only a little bit of capacity to tackle any additional demand.
Meanwhile, just over half (51 per cent) of those surveyed who were on the lookout for permanent staff said they predicted that they would struggle with skills shortages for at least one of the job functions they were recruiting for.
In particular, those looking for staff for both permanent and temporary roles noted that they were most concerned about finding skilled employees for engineering and technical roles.
Green added: "The UK jobs market is at a tipping point, with the decision over our EU membership making a difficult situation worse. While hiring has slowed down in recent months due in part to the Brexit question and global economic uncertainty, employers are telling us that finding candidates to fill vacancies is a difficult challenge."
Responding to the report, Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott said:
The EU’s failure to conclude just five trade agreements with the United States, Japan, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, India and Mercosur has, according to the European Commission’s own figures, cost the UK hundreds of thousands of jobs.
If we vote to leave the EU, we can take back control over our trade policy – which could create 300,000 jobs.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week showed that unemployment had dipped to its lowest level in 11 years at just five per cent.
The REC has warned that the availability of suitable candidates could tighten further, as one in five (20 per cent) of those surveyed revealed they were planning to take on more permanent staff in the next three months and just four per cent saying they felt they would need to cut their workforce over the same time period.