Brexit: What can employers do now to help support their EU employees?
One of the most pressing issues for employers in relation to Brexit is immigration and the rights of EU citizens following the UK’s exit from the EU. Many UK businesses hire EU workers, with some sectors such as agriculture being particularly dependent on seasonal EU workers; still more will employ individuals who have family members who are EU nationals. In order for employers can effectively support affected employees, it is important to be aware of the process that EU citizens/workers will require to go through in order to remain in the UK.
EU citizen status post Brexit
The Home Office has published the three steps EU citizens will need to take in order to obtain settled status in the UK following Brexit. EU citizens will need to complete these steps if they wish to remain in the UK after 30 June 2021. Irish citizens and those who already have indefinite leave to remain do not need to apply.
In order to apply for settled status, EU citizens must have lived in the UK for five years.
- prove their identity as an EU citizen (via passport/ID card);
- prove their residence in the UK (P60, bank statements, utility bills); and
- declare any past criminal convictions.
EU citizens who have lived in UK for less than 5 years can apply for ‘pre-settled status.’ This will enable them to live in the UK until they reach thefive year period where they can then apply for settled status.
There is a £65 fee for the application which is reduced by 50% for children under 16. There will be no fee for:
- those who already have valid indefinite leave to remain or a valid permanent residence document;
- an application to move from pre-settled status to settled status; or
- children in local authority care.
The scheme is set to open from late 2018 before becoming fully operational by 30 March 2019.
The government has set up a mailing list employers can sign up to which provides updates on the application process and intended commencement date. Employers with EU staff should sign up to this mailing list in order to learn of any updates and should encourage affected employees to do the same. Should you wish to sign up to these updates, please visit the government website.
What can employers do now to support staff?
Despite the government stating that employers with EU workers do not need to do anything now, it is important that employers are in a position to support staff where they can. Good communication is essential for the mental wellbeing of employees, and it is also important for employers to have a good understanding of the intentions of their employees on any application for 'settled status'.
It is also important to reassure employees that if they do apply for the 'settled status' or 'pre-settled status' then they will not lose any rights in the workplace. Employers should begin to look at ways in which they can support staff through the application process, and beyond, whether that may be assisting with the fee or helping with the actual application. Employers may also want to seek legal advice or specific immigration advice to address any concerns they or their employees may have.
As the government releases further information, certain aspects of this advice may be liable to change; we anticipate that this might occur in terms of when the application process opens, and the rules which will apply to workers who arrive after December 2020 are also unknown.
This is a difficult time for EU workers, their families, and their employers, so it is important for employers to communicate well with their staff. Our specialists in Immigration and expert Brexit Advisors would be happy to address any particular concerns which both employers and individuals may have in relation to any aspect of this process.