A third of UK SMEs expect Brexit to make hiring harder

Nearly half of British SMEs believe leaving the EU will be damaging for their business, but haven't planned to deal with the impact.

During the current period of Brexit uncertainty, 41 per cent of British SMEs believe leaving the EU will be damaging for their business and make hiring harder – the equivalent of 2.2 million businesses.

One-third of UK SMEs expect Brexit to make it harder to attract and retain great talent, according to new research from freelancing website Upwork, and this number jumps to 56 per cent for larger businesses with 50-250 employees.

The implications of a post-Brexit talent pool are expected to be far reaching. More than half (51 per cent) of concerned businesses expect to see slow profit growth; 40 per cent are worried their workforce will be less productive and nearly one-third (32 per cent) claim it will make hiring harder for them to compete with international businesses. Moreover, the talent shortage means 16 per cent of all SMEs believe they are at risk of going out of business altogether.

No plans in place

However, despite this concern, only 11 per cent of businesses worried about the impact actually have a plan to minimise the impact of Brexit on their hiring efforts.

Another 39 per cent are currently working on a plan but the majority are adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach with 48 per cent of businesses claiming it’s either too early for them to make a plan or they need to hear more about what Britain’s relationship with the EU will look like after Brexit.

The small number that do have a plan anticipate spending on average more than £100,000 over the next two years to make up for the shortfall. Nearly one-third (28 per cent) will spend these funds supplementing their workforce with freelance specialists from online platforms. Many SMEs also plan to train up existing staff (45 per cent) and increase salaries for new employees (39 per cent).

‘There is already a well-documented skills gap in the UK, and our research suggests that leaving the EU will make hiring harder for SMEs to find the talent they need to compete effectively,’ says Upwork SVP, Rich Pearson.

‘Planning for the challenges ahead now by investing in alternative ways to source talent appears to be a winning strategy for SMEs.’

Further reading on employing staff

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Freddie Halvorson

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the Smallbusiness.co.uk and Growthbusiness.co.uk titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the Express.co.uk.

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