One in four businesses in a county survey said they could be hit by staffing problems by a hard Brexit.
A snap survey of North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce members conducted at the end of October has revealed that a quarter of the business polled will be impacted in some way if restrictions are placed on EU workers.
While the majority of those responding said they had never employed EU migrant workers, there was a genuine concern expressed by some businesses that employment restrictions would harm productivity and significantly increase labour costs.
Some firms have already seen employees return home rather than face continuing uncertainty about their right to remain in the UK.
Commenting on the results, Alan Welsh, Policy Manager at the Chamber of Commerce said: “This poll shows that EU workers of all skill levels are being employed across a range of business in Lancashire.
Many of these businesses are reliant on their EU employees, either because of skills shortages in the labour market or simply because EU workers are prepared to take on roles that local people don’t always want to fill.
“Since the referendum, we have repeatedly called on the government to give an unconditional guarantee to all EU citizens in the UK.
We know, through our survey work that many businesses have already lost key members of staff, and other employees have indicated that they intend to leave the UK, due to the uncertainty over their immigration status.
“At a time of near full employment and the skills gap facing firms at all levels, the potential loss of existing EU employees in many firms would have a significant impact on productivity and growth.”
The Chamber carried out the survey following a request from the British Chambers of Commerce.
The findings have been fed into the BCC’s submission to the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence on the impacts of Brexit. The committee is a public body that advises government on migration issues.