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How your recruitment and HR may be affected after the EU Settlement Scheme deadline

The EU Settlement Scheme closes to applications on 30th June 2021, at which point all EU nationals living and working in the UK must have pre-settled or settled status. Those who do not may find themselves unable to remain in the country, with the risk of being dismissed from work, evicted from homes and deported.

There is still time to inform your staff of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). However, it’s vital to look ahead and consider how your internal recruitment and HR strategies may be impacted once the EUSS closes. This is particularly important if you employ EU nationals or want to continue to do so in the future. It also matters as you may find yourself with a skills gap if your EU staff tend to leave the UK after the end of June.

In this guide, we have examined the implications for HR and recruitment from June onwards so that you can put adequate preparations in place for your workforce.

Impact on recruitment

Attracting talent from overseas

Since 1st January, there has been a new immigration system in the UK, which uses a points threshold to grant individuals entry into the country. If you wish to recruit people from overseas – including the EU – they must achieve 70 points to be allowed to move here.

Under the system, candidates must have a salary of at least £20,480 and speak conversational English. Additional points are also rewarded for having qualifications or earning above £25,600.

If you are recruiting abroad – including to fill any labour gaps left after the end of the EUSS – you must tailor vacancies so that they enable candidates to pass the points-based system and arrive in the UK. It is worth noting that the points-based system applies to citizens from every non-UK country, so there is now a level playing field for recruitment compared to the free movement of labour under the European Union. As such, you can access a broader range of talent when filling positions.

Focus on skilled labour

The new immigration system is focused on skilled labour, with specific ranking factors focused on qualifications the candidate has and how high a salary they will receive. For businesses that have historically relied on low-skilled, cheap labour from the EU, this may create a shortage. This will especially be felt if workers of these type leave after the EUSS ends.

If you find yourself facing such a problem, there are two approaches to take. One is to restructure your vacancies so that they enable candidates to meet the requirements of the immigration system. However, this may require increasing labour costs. It is worth noting that the government awards points to individuals taking jobs in a shortage sector, which may give you some leeway, as well as allowing you to pay a reduced salary of 80% of the going rate stated.

The second approach is to consider hiring domestic labour. Again, this may mean redefining your recruitment strategies and roles to appeal to a different audience, but it will prevent you from having to overcome immigration requirements.

So, it will be vital to assess your workforce’s situation and determine a recruitment approach that addresses your unique challenges and fills any skills shortages.

Seasonal labour

Another significant change that came with the ending of the free movement of labour is seasonal labour. Previously, workers from the EU were free to go to the UK and work short-term. For businesses with seasonal demands, this was a helpful way to access low-cost labour only when needed.

To counteract the issue, the government has announced an expansion to the Seasonal Workers Pilot this year. The pilot initially began in 2019, offering a limited number of temporary visas, but this year will expand to 30,000 roles. This pilot allows individuals to work on UK farms for a maximum stay of six months. This is alongside the ‘Pick for Britain’ scheme, which aims to recruit domestic candidates into these roles.

While this news has widely been welcomed in the agricultural industry, it does not apply to other sectors which may have used seasonal labour, such as construction. So, these companies may have to rely on domestic workers instead. It is worth noting that companies can apply for a ‘Temporary Worker’ licence to bring candidates to the UK from overseas in short-term roles. However, this only applies to specific roles.

Impact on HR and right to work checks

Right to work checks

Once the EUSS closes, you will be required to carry out right to work checks on any EU nationals you recruit. These checks will work the same way as they would if you were employing a non-EU worker.

You will need to see an applicant’s original documents and undertake checks to make sure they are genuine and make copies. More guidance on what assessments should be carried out can be found on the government website. These checks do not come into place until 1st July 2021, and you won’t need to do retrospective checks on people you already employ.

Ahead of 30th June, you have no right to ask your staff if they have applied under the EUSS. Once the deadline has passed, you do not need to ask for proof of their settlement status. Instead, the responsibility is with the individual to ensure they can legally work in the UK. If the UK Immigration and Visa Service find out otherwise, it will be dealt with accordingly. If you do happen to uncover that one of your employees doesn’t have legal status, it may be worth carrying out investigations and passing the matter on to the UK Immigration and Visa Service. You may also need to terminate that person’s employment.

Employment law

Since the EU transition period ended, there has been no significant change to employment law, though there was some controversy around a proposed review of workers’ rights in January. The end of the EUSS also does not bring any changes beyond the new right to work checks.

While nothing has changed to date, that does not mean anything won’t change in the future. By leaving the EU, the UK is no longer bound by the EU rules, such as the Working Time Director and other workers’ rights initiatives.

Under the UK-EU TCA, the UK has agreed not to remove the level of rights that already exist. However, it does grant the government more freedom to amend employment law to suit UK needs and priorities.

It is vital to keep on top of any changes by following government guidance and news from industry bodies.

Conclusion

There are now just three months left for your EU staff to obtain pre-settled or settled status under the EUSS. While it must be down to the individual to apply under the scheme if they so wish, you can still prepare your business by considering the implications on your recruitment and HR departments.

The most significant obstacle employers will have to overcome is tailoring their strategies to meet the demands of the new immigration system while reducing the risk of staff shortages and maintaining high-quality labour. This means examining your needs and working to find approaches that suit your company.

Similarly, you must ensure you are carrying out the correct right to work checks to make sure you comply with regulations and accessing candidates who are legally able to work for you. This will help to avoid crisis down the line.

If you need help in understanding the impact of Brexit and the EUSS on your workforce, we are here to help. Our team of advisors can talk you through the new rules and identify the challenges in your operations and find worthy solutions.