23rd of June 2016, the date that will go down in history as the day the British public made the hugely significant decision to leave the European Union. This was a huge shock worldwide and created shockwaves from China to America. The people of Britain were of course the ones that were affected by it the most and it was recorded that books relating to legal citizenship saw a 200% spike in sales as EU nationals living in the country were eccentrically trying to improve their knowledge on whether they could remain in the country.
There have been no new laws that have come from the aftermath of Brexit as of yet, but this is a very worrying time for non-British citizens who are living in the UK. What may surprise a lot of people though is that the main reason for small businesses to worry about visas isn’t actually Brexit! Many know Theresa May as the new woman of Downing Street, but try take your mind back to a time when the most powerful woman in Britain was still Home Secretary.
It was April 2016 and Theresa May was going through the process of pushing a new change in Tier 2 visa’s through Parliament. The change was to prove rueful for citizens that were outside from the EU, as it meant if they were form outside the EU they would have to be earning over £35,000 to settle in the UK. Previously a small business owner would simply have to sponsor a tier 2 visa applicant and say that they were skilled. But now, if an overseas worker has been in the country for more than 5 years they would have to apply for an ILR visa or they would have to leave the country.
A huge number of small business owners were left unhappy about this and a petition was created that got over 100,000 signatures. This did not stop the government though, who still went ahead with the plans. There were some exceptions to the new law: sectors where there was a shortage of jobs e.g. nursing, PhD level job workers and workers who had been in the UK for over 10 years. However, if you’re a small business owner this won’t alleviate concerns about there being a shortage of skilled workers in the future.
What Will This Mean for Small Businesses?
Arguably, small businesses are the group of people who will suffer the most because of this change. What adds to this despair is the fact that 2015 was the highest recorded year for new start-ups, meaning that the overall small business industry was booming. Now think how these businesses will be able to survive knowing if they want quality staff from overseas (which a huge number of businesses require) they will have to pay them at least £35,000 so they can guarantee their British citizenship.
Thankfully, there will be small businesses within certain industries that won’t feel the effect of this. But think about the growing technology and engineering industries which are reliant on the skills from workers who come from outside the UK, how will they be able to survive now they know £35,000 will be required for just one staff member? Then there are owners of small restaurants, how are they going to be able to hire high quality chefs-who are generally from foreign countries- to cook food that keeps customers coming back when they will eat into their profits by paying higher wages?
This all means small business owners are going to be left with some very tough decisions to be make. Do they try and start their business knowing they may not be able to hire the highest quality staff? Or will they choose to go overseas and go to where the skilled staff live? Additionally to all this, because of Brexit it means that the majority of Europe won’t be able to give small business owners any skilled workers either and the effects of Brexit will definitely be felt by small business owners.