4 March 2021
The Workforce Landscape Post-Brexit: How should your SME prepare?

Brexit’s impact on the workforce in the UK is still unknown; however, businesses can keep themselves agile by having a strategy in place to anticipate potential challenges. With the end to the UK and EU freedom of movement, employers will need to look to other alternatives when sourcing qualified candidates.  

According to Reed“Industries which rely heavily on trade with the EU are most likely to see an impact from Brexit. Some examples include financial services, tourism, the automotive industry and manufacturing.” Even if your business does not fit one of these sectors, the whole workforce will experience the effects of Brexit as the pool of eligible candidates becomes smaller.  

With changes to the current talent available domestically, barriers to entry for hiring international staff, and a widening skill gap, SMEs need to embrace flexibility and alternatives to traditional recruitment pathways.   

Be Proactive and Plan for the Unknown  

While it has only been two months since the Brexit transition period has ended, it is crucial employers act proactively to ensure they don’t get left behind as they face new recruitment challenges. 

CIPD’s report on Tackling Post-Brexit labour and skills shortages found that ‘some SMEs lack the knowledge, capability or support to think more strategically about the future needs of their workforce.’ Being informed and creating a plan are essential to SME’s success in a post-Brexit landscape.  

Complete an HR audit to understand your business’s current position and possible obstacles for current employees.

  • What does your team currently look like with regards to domestic and international hires? Have your current EEA staff members applied for the settlement scheme? 
  • How will Brexit affect staff retention? Do you anticipate individuals to relocate? 
  • Is your business prepared to hire international candidates? Are you eligible for a business sponsorship license? 

Simmons and Simmons has an extensive list of questions for businesses to consider when making their post-Brexit workforce plans. You will be able to effectively anticipate and navigate possible obstacles by understanding where your business may be vulnerable.  

Invest in staff Training  

Part of the HR audit will include reviewing your current list of employees and looking for possible gaps in the market that could be a barrier to your business’ future growth. Are you encouraging your team to upskill and seek out training to further their development? There is a strong correlation between investment in training and employee retentionLinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report revealed that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if their employer invested in their career.  

Investing in your team’s development increases their intrinsic motivation to succeed as well as saving you resources by keeping turnover low. Consider offering ‘lunch and learn’ workshops where your employees can cultivate soft skills. Invite external speakers to discuss specific topics where you feel your team would benefit. Encourage individuals to seek out apprenticeships or certificates in their respective field. There are many options for investing in your staff, which can all be utilised to keep your business moving forward.  

Embrace the new landscape 

2020 has refined the idea of ‘business as usual’ with remote working and flexible hours. As the digital transformation continues, decision-makers realise that their pool of candidates is no longer designated to those within an hour radius of the office. SMEs can look to remote employees and offshoring to keep their teams diverse and save on domestic employment costs.  

CIPD’s Labour Report surveyed business leaders and found ‘The Tier 2 application process is seen to be too restrictive and insufficiently responsive to immediate labour needs.’ Sponsoring international employees is a large barrier to entry for SMEs as it is time-consuming and expensive.  

To sponsor a foreign employee, a business needs to obtain a license and prove the need for international staff. The standard processing time for a business sponsorship license is 8 weeks, which does not include the time spent preparing the application. Based on the size of the organisation, a license costs £500- £1500 and is valid for four years. These figures do not include the cost of working with an agency or attorney, which can be thousands to tens of thousands of pounds.  

Along with the cost and time to obtain a license to sponsor a foreign employee, not all companies and positions are eligible for skilled worker visas. Companies must meet certain requirements based on the role they are looking to fill, the salary of the position, and whether the candidate they wish to hire meets certain standards.  

So how are SMEs expected to hire top talent with all of these barriers to entry? Hiring remotely addresses many of these pain points, while saving companies valuable resources. Businesses do not need to apply for a sponsorship license to hire offshore. When you are ready to hire and grow your team, you can start the recruitment process immediately rather than waiting for licenses and visas to get approved.  

In addition to saving time on recruitment and money on license and legal fees, offshoring in Ukraine saves businesses money in office costs, pension and insurance contributions, and salaries. For companies looking to expand with international talent, offshoring is a no-brainer.  

Whether or not your business is hiring at the moment, being prepared for the changes associated with Brexit will position your company for success.  

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