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05 November 2018

Small businesses and their EU staff to be caught up in no deal Brexit chaos

Many small businesses will struggle to cope with the additional burden of having to check the eligibility of their EU workers if they are faced with a no deal Brexit, which would crucially mean no transition period, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned.

The warning comes in response to confirmation from Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, that employers will be expected to check whether EU nationals have the right to work in the UK if there is a no deal Brexit at a Home Affairs select Committee hearing.

Recent FSB research highlights the concerns many small firms that hire EU staff have about the impact of a no deal Brexit on their business. The research shows that more than half (61%) of small firms that hire EU staff, believe that a no deal Brexit will have a negative impact on their short term business continuity. Over a quarter (26%) of small businesses you think they would be impacted by a no deal Brexit say that they would cut staff in preparation for a no deal Brexit.

One fifth (21%) of small employers currently have EU staff in their workforce.

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, voiced his concerns about the lack of clarity around the status of EU nationals in a no deal scenario and the impact this is having on the small business community.

He said: “Many of our small businesses will be deeply concerned and worried about the possibility of having to check the eligibility of their EU workers if we are faced with a no deal Brexit.

Small businesses are not immigration officers and should not be expected to undertake their job. The reality is that many of these businesses wouldn’t know where to start. Most small firms don’t have HR or legal departments to deal with complex immigration procedures, or the time and resources to deal with the additional administrative burden this would bring.

“Despite the Government releasing over fifty technical notes on No Deal, they have yet to release anything informing businesses of what they will need to do if they hire staff from the EU or already have EU staff. This is baffling with less than five months until the UK leaves the EU and is leaving small firms and their EU employees in the dark.

“These businesses and their staff can’t plan without knowing what they are planning for. They need clear and concise direction from the Government about what our immigration system will look like, and how it will work, if we are faced with a no deal Brexit, as well as confirmation of how the settled status scheme will work for those EU nationals already in the UK prior to our exit from the EU

“Time is fast running out for our small businesses and their EU employees. We need the focus to now be on breaking the impasse in negotiations and securing a pro-business deal that supports our small firms.”