Majority of UK SMEs outsource up to half of work to EU citizens


Whether for or against, with almost a year passing since the British vote to leave the European Union, we’ve all had time to get used to the idea of Brexit.

With the course of negotiations and discussions over a ‘hard’ or soft’ approach looming large in every political party’s general election manifesto, PeoplePerHour (PPH) wanted to gauge the feeling of SMEs when it came to the future of hiring freelancers from within the EU – the result is a mixed picture.

While only 13 per cent of small business survey respondents currently export to Europe, the vast majority hire freelance contractors from European countries to work on projects on a regular basis. Only a few hired more than half of their labour from the continent, but with all study participants issuing at least 10 per cent of their projects to European professionals, there is some concern about the potential for increased bureaucracy that Brexit may bring; almost half believed that this may discourage them from using freelancers going forward.

More positively for the freelance community, the study by the UK’s leading freelance marketplace, PPH, revealed that in light of the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU, almost two thirds of SMEs stated that they would be more likely to work with freelancers while the transition takes places, and more than half said that they are likely to spend more money hiring freelancers during that period. This could be very good news for British ‘gigsters’, particularly given that almost the same number have concerns about the potential additional costs involved in transferring money from the UK to the EU.

Other issues which worried SMEs over Brexit were the likely difficulties of financing their business, and the possible increase in airfares, while only 27 per cent thought that Brexit would benefit their business in any way.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO of PeoplePerHour, comments: ‘Not surprisingly, it’s the financial impact of Brexit which most concerns the small and medium enterprises of the UK. While exporting isn’t really an issue for most, the potential hike in the cost of hiring overseas talent – not to mention the inevitable added bureaucracy – is a real concern.’

The UK, will of course try to make agreements that will eliminate these problems but nothing is for certain. Having said that an advantage could be that employment law control will be returned to the UK which may make it more appealing to set up a business here.

‘It’s crucial that the next government make the impact of hiring European talent, both in terms of red tape and costs, absolutely clear so that businesses can plan for a Brexit Britain.’