The impact of Brexit on SMEs

The implications of Brexit are far-reaching, and, at best, complicated for all businesses with interests in the UK.

While the details have yet to be ironed out, it is clear that SMEs will be particularly concerned, especially when it comes to the decision of leaving the European Economic Area (EEA). In order for businesses in the UK to succeed in navigating the uncertainty of Brexit, they must be aware of how any changes in policy will affect their business and employees.

Although the platform on which the UK forms its Brexit plans is essential to understanding the impact upon businesses, it still remains unclear to what extent the UK will leave the European Union. It is understood, however, that if the UK does move towards a “hard” Brexit, it is likely that this will mean an exit from the EEA and the subsequent loss of access to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for British citizens.

A complete separation from the EEA would mean a significant amount of volatility for business, especially firms that have employees working abroad. It could mean a complete re-structuring of how British citizens are able to work abroad, and, subsequently, a divide in how these employees are insured. Should this occur, businesses in the UK will need to address this gap for British employees working abroad, as well as for ‘inpats’ working in the UK from abroad.

In the event that the EHIC is lost, the knock on effect to insurance costs for British citizens could be significant . Insurers will have to take into consideration that they would be footing the bill for all medical treatment, rather than having a proportion dealt with through the EHIC system. This, in turn, could disproportionally affect SMEs as they generally would not have the same dedicated HR resources to research and manage employee health insurance as larger corporations.

Sending employees abroad is a complex process, especially for small businesses that don’t have the luxury of dedicated resources to investigate and address every element. Likewise, employees being sent abroad for work already have a number of stress factors to deal with when it comes to this kind of major relocation. They’re often moving to an unfamiliar environment, they may not speak the language or be familiar with the culture. Having easy access to health and wellbeing support, for them and their families, is one thing they don’t want to have to worry about. Ensuring their employees are looked after through this process becomes an essential service SME’s will need to provide in order to retain and attract top talent.

Alexis Obligi, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Allianz Worldwide Care

To find out more about Allianz Worldwide Care visit Allianz Worldwide Care is the international health division of Allianz Worldwide Partners. It specialises in providing international health, life and disability insurance to businesses and international health insurance to private individuals living or working abroad.