The United Kingdom (UK) has left the European Union (EU). However, most of the rules relating to trade, finance, data and people, etc. remain in place. We are now in the “Transition Period” and at the end of this period these rules will change.
The current time frame is the 1st February 2020 through until 30th December 2020, for the two parties to establish new trading arrangements; covering the key issues (e.g. finance, data, goods and people). The UK government states that it intends to exit from the current trading arrangements with or without a deal at the end of December 2020.
Therefore, a “No Deal” exit may occur. Even if a deal is struck, many of the existing rules will be replaced or no longer apply. For example, the free movement of people will fall away, replaced by an alternative arrangement.
Although final details have yet to be agreed, in this article we consider the possible impact on future employment and recruitment. We know what EU citizens need to do if they wish to remain in the UK and, there are indicators as to the direction of travel for temporary EU workers.
How can EU citizens continue living and working in the UK?
A EU citizen wishing to remain in the UK after the 30th June 2021 is required to apply for Settled Status (unless they already have Indefinite Leave to Remain or Indefinite Leave to Enter). Any EU citizen resident in the UK prior to the 30th December 2020 can apply.
To potentially qualify, an individual must demonstrate they have been living continuously in the UK for at least five years. Individuals who have been resident for less can still apply for Pre-Settled Status. Provided they stay in the UK and remain eligible, they will achieve Settled Status when they reach the five year mark.
Applying is straightforward. Simply log onto the UK Government website and follow the step-by-step instructions. If approved, the applicant will receive a letter of confirmation and they will have a code they can share with others (e.g. employers) who can, in turn, check for themselves.
How will EU citizens be able to live and work in the UK in the future?
The UK government has recently unveiled plans for a “points” based system for qualification. Under the scheme, overseas workers coming to the UK would have to speak English and have the offer of a skilled job with an ‘approved sponsor’. Additional points would be awarded for qualifications and larger salaries.
However, this route does not favour lower-skilled workers which means that sectors like the hospitality sector that rely on unskilled, seasonal labour may struggle to find enough staff during the peak season.
Other possible requirements may include the need to apply the Residual Labour Test, a very clear defined Job offer/role and additional administrative steps (i.e. visas, permits, etc.). It is also likely the cost of “sponsoring” an EU temporary worker will be higher.
What about UK citizens living and working in the EU?
A UK citizen currently living and working in another EU state is protected and will have a right of residency if they have lived and worked there for five years. However, member states may ask UK workers to apply for residency within six months of the transition period ending.
If there is no deal, the UK will become what is called a ‘third country’. It will then be up to each member state to decide what rights to grant UK citizens.
Most EU countries have put some measures in place if there’s no deal but these apply to people already living and working before the exit. The likely changes will be for how long workers can stay and for how long family members will be able to move freely.
Anyone who is proposing to travel to work in the EU after the exit will need to fulfil the specific conditions laid down by EU law and of the member state. Work permits and visas will almost certainly be required, and countries might introduce caps. Some member states have said they will be lenient for a period but there will be no unified approach.
You might find that national rules and qualifications add unexpected barriers to who can work where. Social security rights may change, and UK workers may also find they have to pay tax and social security.
How can you safeguard your workforce?
Although the situation is yet to be clarified, there are recommended activities you can take now to prepare your business. In order to prevent a labour shortage issue, assess your workforce now and engage with affected employees. In short, take control now to safeguard your key assets.
- Audit your workforce
- Carry out risk assessments and workforce audits to ascertain the likely impact that Brexit will have on your ability to both retain and employ EU workers
- Identify the number of EU workers currently employed by you in the UK in order to allow you to identify those workers who will require their status to be regularised
- Include both EU and non-EU nationals in your workforce audit
- Make appropriate arrangements for your UK workers/employees based in other EU countries
- Introduce support programmes to assist employees in securing the appropriate immigration status and ongoing right to work in the UK
- Clear and effective communication is of vital importance in the retention of EU workers
- Reassure and inform your EU workers of the latest developments and proposals and their ability to remain in the UK post-exit
- Explore options for your EU employees – Do they qualify for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme? Do they enjoy the right to obtain UK or even Irish citizenship?
- Support your EU workers by providing access to professional assistance in securing status. Many employers, such as universities, are assisting EU workers with legal and Home Office fees