The Textile Services Association (TSA), the trade association for the textile services industry has today published its report on Industry Employment Trends for 2017. The report highlights strength in the sector, with 56.25% of members reporting workforce growth over the past 12 months, but shows challenges on the future of access to labour which the TSA will work with Government to resolve.

“While there is good news that our members have been growing their businesses to increase services to the NHS, hospitality and tourism sectors and the wider UK manufacturing and services economies, we have serious reservations about being able to sustain this expansion after Brexit,” said TSA chief executive Philip Wright. “It is essential the Government considers how service businesses that need to be provided locally can continue to source employees at all levels in the future.

“Without this there is a risk textile services will be under pressure and prices will accelerate for many customers,” he warned.

The TSA survey shows the industry’s growing contribution to the UK economy as a “hidden engine”, supporting a wide range of critical sectors to the UK economy including tourism and hospitality, health and manufacturing.

The study comprises of 51 respondents, covering a total of 116 sites and 16,600 employees across the UK. The findings come as the TSA’s Sector Interest Groups meet in Leicestershire to discuss how services can be improved in the sectors which could not function without textile services, including health, workwear and tourism and hospitality.

The report highlights risks associated with Brexit if there are significant reductions to immigration, with 38% of members’ employees originating from the European Union (EU). This equates to 11,900 EU employees playing a crucial role in supporting the NHS, tourism and hospitality and all sectors of industry across the UK. Furthermore, over 10% of respondents ran facilities where the percentage of EU workers was more than 80%, with the maximum standing at 95%.

A significant number of members raised concerns of their ability to retain and access sufficient numbers of employees.

The last few years have seen record levels of investment in new technology and automation in the sector, which significantly increases the efficiency of textile services, but this is set against an overall increase in total employment as members expand to serve the needs of a growing UK economy. The TSA is therefore focused on working with the Government to ensure a smooth transition for the labour market post Brexit.