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How will Brexit effect employees in new startups?

Will there be a mass migration of foreign talent or will such employees still be able to feather their nests in the UK? The plight of foreign workers and whether they will be in a position to remain in the UK post Brexit, or whether they will be forced to leave, is amongst the most topical discussions concerning Brexit.

Well documented are the numbers concerning EU workers in the farming sector. Farmers Weekly published an article as far back as May, outlining its concerns for the sector should workers from the EU be excluded from working in the UK, post Brexit. Foreign labour makes up a whopping 65% of the labour force on farms across the UK, a figure that would be hard to compensate for using a native workforce.

But what about the talent pool UK startups rely on, particularly in sectors such as tech? Here, there are elements of good news and some not so good news. A recent survey conducted by TechCrunch revealed that 20% of startup founders indicated that some employees had already left the UK due to the cold winds of Brexit. Qualitative results from the same survey included this quote:

“Keeping access to EU talent is the biggest thing and would be a cast iron commitment from the UK government to maintain the 2015 level of LP investment that UK based VC’s receive directly or indirectly (via the BBB) from the European Investment Fund. Without that commitment there will be a massive shortage of VC money in London in 12-18 months time.”

Positive feedback from the survey included several of the people expressing confidence in the actions of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has already taken steps to help secure the ongoing success of tech startups. The question of whether talent from the EU will still be able to work in the UK, however, still remains.

If this is the case, then startup companies from the tech sector and beyond may have to seek out alternative ways to import the all-important talent they require. One way to do this, could be in-house research, alternatively, the appointment of immigration specialists such as Withers Worldwide; using a company who are experts in immigration law may well be the route startups will turn to. In order for startups to retain or import key members of staff, it will be essential to have on board people with a wider understanding of the new laws and regulations laid out by Brexit.

London is currently Europe’s most important hub for startups and particularly, those in the tech sector which has attracted an estimated €8.9 bn since 2011. According to a report entitled ‘The European Talent Landscape’, London is the base for 31% of all European startups, “But the relative weakness of the pound since the referendum vote, together with developers’ willingness to be mobile and work in smaller tech hubs, could reduce the relative advantage the capital enjoys without proper policy support post-Brexit.” exclaims the report.

Indeed, the ramifications of Brexit for startups does not start and end with the question of whether employees and founders for that matter will be able to stay in the UK. A scenario where they are able to stay could still pose issues such as pay and conditions.

If the startup relies of business from Europe, the pound remains low and trading in Europe becomes more expensive, then the companies and employees could see their salaries cut. If an environment like this is the outcome of Brexit, even if it is only in the short term, we may see much of the foreign talent currently working in the UK up sticks and seek a more conducive environment to live and work in.

Brexit, no matter which ever way you look at it is going to throw up challenges for new startups and what remains to be seen is how they are able to meet these challenges and cope with the changing landscape of the UK business world.

In all probability, the result of Brexit on UK startups and their employees will differ from one company to another, with some deciding it is in their best interests to fly the coup and others deciding to draw on all their strengths and resources to ensure they can remain in the UK to hatch their plans.

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