With just over five months left on the clock until Britain’s transition period ends with the EU, businesses and individuals are now preparing to make the changes required to allow a smooth transition towards the UK’s future.
One particular group that may have questions about the impact of leaving are EU citizens living and working in the UK. If you employ EU staff, it is in your best interest to make sure your EU workers are prepared for any changes and to offer them peace of mind as well as ensure your operations aren’t disrupted.
In this blog, we explain how your EU employees may be affected once Britain is no longer part of the European Union and what you can do to minimise the impact. We will also discuss how your future recruitment of EU workers may need to be adapted in line with the UK’s immigration policies.
- How can EU workers remain in the UK?
- Will the rights of EU citizens I employ change?
- Will my business be able to recruit EU labour in the future?
- How should I prepare my EU staff?
How can EU workers remain in the UK?
If you have staff that are originally from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, the good news is that there are measures in place to ensure they can continue to live and work in the UK. To do so, they will need to apply for the right under the EU Settlement Scheme.
The EU Settlement Scheme applies to anyone who originates from the EU, but that does not have British citizenship. This includes those who were born in the UK if they do not have British citizenship. The scheme also covers the family members of applicants so that they can remain in the UK, too.
Under this scheme, EU citizens can seek “pre-settled” (if they have been living in the UK for less than five years) or “settled” (if they have been living in the UK continuously for five or more years) status. If an EU national gets pre-settled status, they can remain in the UK for a further five years or can apply for settled status once they have been living in the UK for five years. Those with settled status can remain indefinitely.
Inform your relevant staff members of the scheme and see how you can support them so they can continue working in the UK long-term. They can apply on the government website on any device and will need proof of identity (such as a passport) and proof of continuous residence in the UK (such as a National Insurance Number).
The deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme is 30th June 2021, offering a phased approach once the transition period has ended. If your workers have not applied to the scheme before this date, they may face being unable to work or live in Britain on an ongoing basis.
If you recruit frontier workers who work from your British company but do not live in the UK, there is slightly different guidance in place for their family members living in the UK. Find out more about this in the government’s information.
Will the rights of EU citizens I employ change?
The UK government has confirmed that there will be no changes to status or rights for EU citizens living in Britain before 30th June 2021. So, until this point, you can continue to employ these workers in the same way you already have been and, most importantly, you cannot be seen to discriminate against them.
It has not yet been announced what changes may be in place from the 1st July 2021 onwards. However, if your workers have obtained pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, they should be subject to the same rights as any British citizens you employ.
Employee rights in general have been discussed as potentially changing when the UK leaves the EU, as many rights are underpinned in EU regulation. However, many of these rights have been written into law, so are unlikely to change drastically for either your EU or UK staff.
Will my business be able to recruit EU labour in the future?
While your existing EU workers should not be primarily affected – providing they have applied and been accepted under the EU Settlement Scheme – you may find future recruitment of EU citizens changing.
From 1st January 2021, Britain will have a points-based immigration system. Under this system, any EU or Rest of World (RoW) citizens entering the UK will need to have a job offer at a certain skill level in place and will need to have some English-speaking ability. Additional points will be awarded to those who have a job offer over certain salary thresholds, having a job in an industry facing skills shortages or having a PhD. Individuals will only be able to enter the UK if they have enough points to do so.
If you do wish to recruit EU or RoW citizens after 31st December 2020, it is therefore likely that you will need to supply these workers with job offers with annual salaries of at least £20,480. This may see an end to the cheap labour traditionally associated with EU workers. You will also need to offer a job to any EU citizen you wish to hire before they can move to the UK. There may still be some opportunities for seasonal workers in certain sectors, like agriculture, but these will be limited.
If you are recruiting EU citizens who already have pre-settled or settled status, this shouldn’t affect your hiring. However, you may need to check their status with Right to Work checks if you intend to employ them after 30th June 2021.
How should I prepare my EU staff?
With the deadline for fully leaving the EU approaching, it is now the right time to make sure your staff are prepared – and particularly those from the EU, who may be concerned as to how their own lives may change.
Make sure your EU staff are aware of any changes. This includes informing them of the EU Settlement Scheme and offering support for the application process as soon as possible if they wish to remain in the UK, as well as sharing any government updates as they are announced. By doing so, you can ensure they feel comfortable with their future in your company. You can also minimise any interruption or skills shortages your business may face should your EU staff be unable to continue to work for you.
Read our blog on how to prepare your staff for more advice on how to get your entire workforce ready for post-EU operations.
If you need guidance on how your business may be affected once the EU transition period ends, including the impact on your staff, we are here to help. Our team of advisors have expertise across a range of sectors so that they can assist with your unique requirements.
To get advice and book a one to one discussion with an advisor, please contact 0330 2020 216 or email [email protected].