Is this one fallout from Brexit? A reticence on the part of small businesses like yours to continue hiring?
Does it tally with your own?
‘While the bosses of large corporations plan on expanding their workforce despite the uncertainty of Brexit,’ starts Real Business, ‘SME employers aren’t showing the same vote of confidence.’
And it adds, businesses ‘with smaller workforces are extremely susceptible to staffing and skills shortages’.
The piece cites two prominent examples of large conglomerates planning UK expansions even in the wake of the Brexit decision:
• Amazon, which, it says, plans to ‘hire an additional 5,000 people across various departments, taking its total UK workforce to 24,000’
• And Facebook – which plans a 50 per cent increase in staff, and to ‘open an HQ in London to boot’
Zurich research suggests a very different attitude across UK small businesses.
Real Business quotes the latest Zurich SME Risk Index: ‘While SMEs are reporting no major concerns about the current business environment, when it comes to the workforce, bosses are fearing the worst’, it says.
‘Concerns about the nation’s future immigration control was cited as one of the biggest reasons why a third of employers don’t plan on expanding their workforce anytime soon’, says Real Business.
‘This was according to Zurich’s survey of over 1,000 SME decision makers, which found that only 14 per cent of employers see hiring as a current option. This, the company said, is the lowest recorded percentage since April 2013.’
This seems to reflect concerns over finding talent. ‘Of those with workforce concerns,’ it goes on, ‘27 per cent were worried how prime minister May’s triggering of Article 50 would impact their ability to find talented workers and thus sought greater clarity around the subject.’
Paul Tombs, Head of SME Proposition at Zurich, is quoted by Real Business.
‘Since Brexit,’ he’s quoted, ‘the number of people seeing the opportunity of expanding their workforce is worryingly low, because there are no guarantees about the future availability of skilled labour.’
He sees ‘a crisis looming’: ‘Businesses with smaller workforces are extremely susceptible to staffing and skills shortages, and a lack of clarity around work permits and movement of workers after Brexit is doing nothing to assuage these fears. There is a crisis looming in the UK, as employers gear up for a scramble to get and keep any skilled workers they can lay their hands on.’
It does depend, of course, on which sector you’re looking at. Law, construction and transport/ distribution are three areas bucking the trend. ‘Law led the way,’ says Real Business, ‘with 38 per cent of SMEs seeing expansion as an opportunity’.
But ‘finance and accounting saw the steepest drop of all, with expansion plans falling by 53 per cent. Manufacturing saw a decline of 48 per cent, while the IT and telecoms sector went down by 45 per cent.’