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Is EU uncertainty holding back small businesses, asks Durham HR expert

Jun 2, 2016 | Business

A local human resources expert has spoken out about how the EU referendum could be affecting small businesses and unemployment in County Durham.

The EU debate has well and truly taken over the airwaves. Politicians from both sides are hurling conflicting statistics at the public. Big beasts from business are weighing in with their opinion. Even Barack Obama and Mark Carney (Governor of the Bank of England) have candidly had their say.

So what does the little person say, or rather the SME person? Do the legions of small business owners, who are the engine room of our economy, think we should stay in the EU or leave, and what are their reasons?

Alison Schreiber, who runs the Durham & Darlington franchise of outsourced human resources company The HR Dept, said: “Now that the end-game is in sight, The HR Dept is carrying out its own SME survey. We will be sharing the results as soon as they are in.

“Looking at other indicators, we see a lot of uncertainty out there among SMEs. Unemployment in the first quarter of 2016 rose for the first time since the General Election in 2015. Experts suggest this could be down to nervousness regarding Europe.”

Another survey, undertaken by Zurich, suggested that as many as 40% of SME owners would vote leave with about 10% unsure and just under 50% voting to remain.

Alison continues: “This Zurich survey really emphasises the uncertainty. While it may suggest about 90% of business owners are sure of their own conviction, they can’t be confident of the overall outcome. And that is not helpful when they are making plans about employing people, ordering equipment or exporting.

“It’s likely that the result will affect SMEs as a group more than other sections of the UK: supply of labour, the impact of a potential recession, the strength of the Pound for exporters and looser or tighter regulation could dramatically affect the fortunes of County Durham businesses.”