One of the reasons that the UK is a leader in life sciences has been its ability to attract, develop and retain a highly skilled workforce. Now, with the political uncertainty surrounding Brexit, is the life sciences sector in danger of facing a brain drain as talented individuals look for jobs outside the UK? With increased competition, how can UK-based pharma and biotech companies continue to attract the best talent from outside the UK, overcome talent shortages and deal with UK talent movement abroad?

In this blog, I explore the key challenges surrounding Brexit and talent and look at what companies can do to maintain and grow their businesses in the context of leaving the EU.

Tangible disruption

The disruption to life sciences talent post-Brexit is tangible. Some major healthcare organisations have already relocated; for example, the European Medicines Agency has moved its HQ from London to Amsterdam, affecting 900 jobs. From my own experience of working in mainland Europe, I have witnessed that many small to medium sized biotechs from the East Coast of the US which might previously have chosen to head to the UK are now choosing to move to Switzerland because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Switzerland has a huge arena of talent, companies and funding, in the building next door to our offices in Switzerland there are about 40 start ups in life science in early phase with up to 15 employees.

It is this uncertainty that is the biggest problem; with the range of potential outcomes changing every day and shifting rapidly, companies are trying to make predictions and avoid risk based on only limited information. Employees don’t know if they will need visas to work in the UK, and companies don’t know how, or to what extent employment laws will be affected. In such a volatile political climate, the key to continual growth and development is research and preparation.

Stay informed

Companies will need to make themselves aware of the relevant legislation. Many life sciences companies already seek talent from all over the world and therefore there are existing processes and procedures in place for employing foreign talent. Depending on the outcome of Brexit, there could be additional rules and regulations to follow. UK based companies will need to conduct the Right to Work checks for employees, support employees applying to the EU Settlement Scheme and, in the case of a no-deal Brexit, inform those arriving about the European Temporary Leave to Remain. The key will be to stay as informed as possible and keep on top of the latest advice.

Work with a partner that can help guide you

One solution to finding the right talent post-Brexit is to take advantage of the experience of a life sciences executive search firm, such as ours, which can help to navigate you through the uncertainty. We have an extensive network of clients and candidates globally, including the UK, which means that we have access to the very best talent to suit the specific requirements of each assignment. Our team has expertise in different areas of life science and business that enables us to provide the right type of consultancy and advice to clients. We always have, and always will, continue to search globally for the top talent; for us there are no barriers. The outlook is not as bleak as it may seem – there are always solutions with the right mindset, the right connections and thorough research.

We are expanding our European team and are seeking experienced and motivated Executive Search Consultants and Researchers to join us.

If you are interested to find out more, please contact Kristian on

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