SMEs face skills shortage if they lose EU workers post-Brexit

Small businesses in the United Kingdom are worried about how they will find the right recruits and continue to grow if they lose their EU workers after Brexit, according to a new report.

A survey by the Federation of Small Businesses found that 59 per cent of small firms with EU workers are worried about finding people with the right skills after the UK leaves the union.

Meanwhile, 54 per cent are concerned about how they will grow post-Brexit.

The report showed that 21 per cent of small businesses in the UK have EU staff, with 72 per cent of these recruiting EU workers who already lived in the UK.

95 per cent of SMEs said they have no experience of using the UK’s points-based immigration system to recruit workers from outside of the European Union.

With this in mind, 13 per cent of small business owners said they would consider moving their firms abroad if Brexit creates additional barriers to recruiting EU citizens.

Meanwhile, 13 per cent said they may have to cut back their operations as a result and eight per cent said increased restrictions may even mean they have to shut down.

The FSB called on the government to guarantee the right to remain of EU workers in the UK.

“There is real concern among small firms with EU staff that they will lose access to the skills and labour their business needs to survive and grow,” said its national chairman Mike Cherry.

“EU workers are a vital part of our economy, helping to plug chronic skills gaps across a wide range of sectors and filling jobs in an already tight labour market.

“From packers to mechanics to graphic designers, small employers need to be able to hire the right person for the right job at the right time.

“Securing the right to remain for EU workers in the UK must be a priority.

“It’s also crucial small firms are given time after the UK leaves the EU to prepare for the new immigration arrangements. There can’t be a sudden cliff edge preventing small firms from accessing the workers they need.

“This means having sensible transitional arrangements first, followed by the phased implementation of a new immigration system.”

For more from the survey, see the FSB’s website.

Photo © donfiore / 123RF Stock Photo