15 May 2017
Two thirds of Scottish small employers with EU workers are concerned about future skills shortages, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
One quarter of Scottish small employers currently have a member of staff from elsewhere in the EU, with this figure rising to two in five in the Highlands. By comparison, about a fifth of UK firms have an EU worker.
The small business campaign group said that is therefore vital for Scottish businesses that EU workers are given the right to remain in the country after the UK leaves the EU.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “There is real concern among small firms with EU staff that they will lose access to the skills and labour their business needs to survive and grow.
"EU workers are a vital part of our economy, helping to plug chronic skills gaps across a wide range of sectors, and filling jobs in an already tight labour market. From packers, to mechanics, to graphic designers, small employers need to be able to hire the right person, for the right job at the right time.”
New FSB research shows that, if Brexit creates additional barriers to recruiting EU citizens, Scottish small employers would consider reducing operations (37%), closing their business (19%), or moving their business abroad (12%).
Nine in ten Scottish firms recruited their EU workers when they were already living in the UK. And the vast majority of UK small firms (95%) have no experience of using the UK’s points-based immigration system to recruit non-EU workers.
Almost half of Scottish smaller businesses in the tourism and leisure sector have an EU worker.
Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convener, said: “Smaller Scottish employers don’t have the resources of their larger counterparts to navigate complex immigration systems.
"Any future system needs to work for the real economy – and needs to flex to adapt to the needs of all sectors and geographies. It can’t just be big businesses that gain access to the skills they need.”
FSB is also recommending changes to the Scottish skills and education system to try to mitigate the impact of any immigration changes.
Mr Willox added: “Our data shows that our members predominantly recruit non-UK EU citizens because they’re the best candidates. If our immigration system is set to change, then our skills system needs to do the same.”
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