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BREXIT: the future of EU workers within SMEs

Posted by Jessica Thompson on 2nd May 2017

Many UK businesses are finding themselves in ‘limbo’ following the triggering of Article 50 on 29th March 2017, marking the beginning of the UK’s departure from the EU. According to the latest research from the Federation of Small Businesses, over half of small businesses with EU workers are worried about accessing people with the right skills, or growing their business post-Brexit.

Many employers are asking themselves:

  • What will happen to my workforce
  • How can I protect my workforce?
  • Should I recruit an EU citizen now?
  • How can I maintain my business’ growth?

Imagine, you have just opened a brand new Hotel and 90% of your staff are from the EU– the Government pass policy that you can only retain 45% of your EU workforce due to a push on employing UK nationals – what can you do?

Answers remain unclear, but what is clear is that businesses must ready themselves for a new way of recruiting EU workers post-Brexit, if at all.

Currently, employers are free to recruit EU citizens living within the UK and abroad due to the right of free movement enjoyed by EU citizens, however when the UK leaves the EU, this right of free movement will no longer be automatic.

No doubt there will be a transitional period for workers and even special provisions for those who have worked in the UK long term, but with the number of EU workers in the UK at over 2 million, SMEs need to know they can utilise this pool of workers and employ the right people.

SMEs should continue to recruit EU citizens with the hope that Government will implement sensible transitional arrangements, phasing the implementation of a new immigration system slowly to ensure SMEs can flourish in a post-Brexit Britain.

 If you’re an SME and need advice on current employees or future recruits speak to our Business Immigration specialists within our Employment team. 

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