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UK businesses are divided over the Brexit outlook

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Large businesses significantly more optimistic about the future than their small business counterparts, joint research by HR and payroll provider NGA Human Resources (NGA HR) and its SMB division, Moorepay, has revealed.

Six in ten (59 percent) respondents working for large businesses expect Brexit to have a positive impact on their business, but only 35 percent of SMBs share this view. In fact, a quarter of (25 percent) SMB employees in the UK actually believe their situation will worsen after the UK has left the European Union. Looking ahead, the majority (79 percent) of larger UK businesses are ready to address the challenges and exploit the opportunities resulting from Brexit, whereas just over half of small businesses (56 percent) feel the same.

Asked about their wish list for a post-Brexit economy, all UK businesses agree that access to the single market is the biggest advantage of the EU membership and one that both large businesses (64 percent) and SMBs (54 percent) would like to retain. Additionally, opening up trade to new countries and markets is seen as the main advantage of Brexit for both large (70 percent) and smaller businesses (54 percent), followed by freedom from EU laws and regulations (both 48 percent).

UK businesses also see a break from Europe as an opportunity to free themselves from EU legislation. Businesses both large and small want more flexibility in hiring agency workers whereas only large businesses (59 percent) want additional regulation around working hours.

The impending Brexit will result in a recruitment push for larger businesses with nearly half (49 percent) expecting to hire more people, whereas it’s business as usual for SMBs (63 percent) who aren’t expecting much change. Surprisingly, given a choice, most large businesses (77 percent) would rather hire non-EU workers than EU workers in a post-Brexit labour market. SMBs, on the other hand, have no preference either way.

Additionally, respondents at large British businesses:

  • mostly voted to remain in the European Union (53 percent)
  • think Brexit will have a positive impact on talent retention and acquisition (62 percent)
  •  believe more flexible employment laws would be a good thing (84 percent)

“It is great to see that large companies have bounced back from the initial shock of the referendum outcome and are ready to embrace Brexit and the opportunities that come with it. Their resilience to even the most fundamental changes will be instrumental in overcoming any potential economic volatility we might face in the future. However, at a time when large businesses expect to recruit more staff as a result of Brexit, companies must not only remember to hire the right talent for their needs. They also need to think about managing that talent correctly, to help align their people strategy with the long-term business strategy,” said Jonathan Legdon, President UK & Ireland at NGA HR. Respondents at small businesses, on the other hand: mostly voted to remain in the European Union (51 percent); think Brexit will have a positive impact on talent retention and acquisition (41 percent) believe more flexible employment laws would be a good thing (75 percent).

Commenting on the results, Alison Dodd, managing director at Moorepay, said: “SMBs form the backbone of the UK economy and it should be cause for concern that the small business community is increasingly pessimistic about the consequences of Brexit. Most of them don’t like the uncertainty that comes with such substantial changes to the economy and the labour market. However, it is important for them to remember that not everything is doom and gloom. By making preparations now and looking at how the Brexit will potentially impact their organisation, SMBs can make sure they make it through the stormy months and years ahead without putting their business at risk.”

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