As said by FSB Chairman, Mike Cherry:
‘More than one in three small firms now say lack of access to the right skills is holding back growth – up from roughly a quarter at this time last year’. 1 in 5 small employers rely on staff from the EU.
We are already seeing reduced migration from EU workers with EU workers leaving UK jobs at the fastest rate since 1997 (ONS). The unemployment rate also rose from 4% to 4.1%, as did self-employment rates.
Brexit is only likely to exacerbate the skills shortage with uncertainty surrounding how Brexit will impact not only existing EU employees, but future migration also with potentially cumbersome immigration requirements for EU staff requiring visas or work permits.
Staff members are a crucial part of any business but this is particularly so for small businesses who have likely invested a considerable amount of time and resources into training their new staff members and developing existing.
I have seen first-hand, particularly while our start-ups are in the ‘scale up’ phase of their business, how important taking on and retaining the right team is for growing and developing the business. There is little wriggle room to getting this wrong as it stands already as the cost of recruitment and development for small business is usually a tight budget. The transient nature of what Brexit may bring will no doubt squeeze these budgets further and put more strain on resourcing.
The Brexit withdrawal agreement needs to take into account the crucial role which EU workers have in contributing to the success of our small businesses. Small businesses need incentives to take the leap from a one person start-up to becoming an employer. Many of the businesses which XFE support are in industries such as food and hospitality, and construction which are often reliant upon EU workers. Whatever post Brexit looks like, these important considerations need to be taken into account to protect skilled workers, supply-chains and our small businesses.