POLICYMAKERS should help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) prepare for Brexit by providing them with the skills to adapt to changes, according to a report. 

Research led by Dr Oliver Mallett, associate professor in work and employment at the University of Stirling, looked at how regulations affect SMEs.

The report identifies that stability is important for many SMEs, highlighting the need for reliability and continuity of regulation.

However, it says Brexit has created the possibility of significant turmoil and, despite government reassurances, owner-managers and entrepreneurs are likely to need support to reduce uncertainty and ensure confidence in their regulatory compliance.

Dr Mallett said: “Post-Brexit, the perceived potential for widespread regulatory change, uncertainty and instability is likely to undermine confidence amongst SME owner-managers.

“As the UK government and others seek to develop a ‘better regulation’ agenda, it is vital to consider the full range of effects regulations can have on SMEs, including the beneficial effects.”

He said monitoring, negotiating, and adapting to changes, were all vital skills that went beyond regulation, and that regulatory compliance had been found to improve management practices within SMEs. 

The report, which was co-written by Dr Robert Wapshott and Professor Tim Vorley from the University of Sheffield, found that regulation can have a range of positive benefits, including maintaining competitive markets and protecting SMEs from unfair competition; encouraging improved practices, such as in managing conflict in the employment relationship; and indirectly developing management competence through the creation of formal and equitable policies and practices.

The research, developed out of a funded project for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, was published by the International Journal of Management Reviews.