Small business have today warned the government against expanding existing charges to recruit skilled workers to cover European staff.
Rules coming into force from this month mean that firms now pay up to £1,000 per recruit per year to appoint skilled workers from outside Europe.
And earlier this year, immigration minister Robert Goodwill suggested the charge could also apply to European recruits.
Goodwill said a charge would “be helpful to British workers who feel they are overlooked", but the Federation of Small Businesses has today warned against the move.
Small firms, with fewer than 50 employees or turnover below £10.2m, pay £364 per employee per year, but FSB said it was seeking assurance the scheme would not be expanded.
“Many small businesses would be unable to cope with the significant additional costs imposed by the surcharge,” FSB said.
It comes as the business group publishes a survey warning that more than 60 per cent of small firms with EU staff are worried about recruiting after Brexit.
FSB also found that nearly three quarters of these firms recruited all of their EU workers when they were living in the UK, and 95 per cent have no experience using the UK’s points-based immigration system to recruit non-EU workers.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Most small firms don’t have HR departments to deal with complex immigration procedures, or the time and resources to deal with swathes of additional paperwork or extra costs.
“They are least well-placed to cope with losing staff, or dealing with a burdensome application process from the government to retain and hire new staff.”