So that’s it. Possibly the most significant moment in our 21st century history was made at 11.00pm on 31st January 2020 when the UK left the European Union, after 47 years of membership.
However, as an employer, you may be querying what to expect, and what implications this may have for your employees and your organisation.
Fortunately, from an employers’ perspective, there are no overnight changes:
● EU free movement rules will continue until 31st December 2020.
● Right to Work checks for EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals and their family members will remain unchanged until 1st January 2021.
● EU, EEA and Swiss nationals (and their non-EEA family members) resident in the UK before 31st December 2020 will be eligible to apply for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), with a deadline of 30th June 2021.
● Processes for recruitment of employees with start dates prior to 31st December 2020 will be unaffected for the time being.
Although there is no immediate requirement to make adjustments, it would certainly be best practice for employers to audit their processes, inform and prepare their employees, and make plans for the future.
Therefore, this month’s blog will focus on three steps organisations can take today, to be ready to hit the ground running in January 2021.
Inform employees of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
If any of your employees are from the EU, inform them of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The scheme processes applications of European Union citizens currently living in the UK, to allow them to remain in the UK now that Brexit has taken place.
EU citizens living in the UK will need to apply to the scheme by 30th June 2021, and successful applicants will be given a settled status (EU nationals who have lived in the UK for over 5 years) or pre-settled status (EU nationals who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years).
Any EU citizens who do not apply by this deadline will be deemed to be living in the UK illegally.
Those granted settled status will have the same rights to healthcare, education, benefits and pensions as a British citizen, while those with pre-settled status will have limited rights, with restrictions on some welfare benefits (those granted pre-settled status can apply to change to settled status once they have 5 years of continuous residence). The differences in status will need to be a consideration for your organisation, in terms work-related benefits, pensions, and the potential consequences for an EU employee suffering ill-health or facing unemployment.
It is worth also remembering that sharing information on the EUSS should not be confined exclusively to your EU employees. Communicate and circulate this information amongst ALL employees, as you may have individuals who do not need to apply themselves, but have family members from the EU who do.
The Government has provided an Employer Toolkit for employers wishing to inform their employees of the EUSS, which can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/eu-settlement-scheme-employer-toolkit.
Conduct an audit of your workforce
As much as the Government has assured us that it is their goal to grant settled and pre-settled statuses to as many EU nationals as possible, it is inevitable that some organisations will find they have employees whose applications are unsuccessful.
To ensure you and your employees are not met with an unwelcome surprise at the last possible moment, go one step further than informing your employees of the EUSS by carrying out an audit of your workforce to identify any EU, EEA and Swiss nationals, and advising them of the EUSS and their need to comply, if they have not already done so, or as a result of your first communication with them on this.
Request that the relevant employees provide you with a copy of the confirmation that they have been granted a successful status under the EUSS. This serves double-duty in that it will also highlight employees who still need to submit applications – at which point, reminders can be provided.
Please note that conducting this type of review must be done in an appropriate and sensitive manner, so as not to invite accusations of discrimination, harassment or victimisation. For assistance with this, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Plan for the Future
Although we are still in a time of uncertainty, it would be wise to make considerations for any recruiting of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals in the future.
A new immigration system is due to come into force when the transitional period ends. It appears that employer sponsorship will continue to be the main process for obtaining UK work visas. Employers with a sponsor licence would be well advised to review their documentation to ensure it will continue to be compliant under the new immigration system. Employers without a sponsor licence but who intend on recruiting EU nationals in the future, should consider applying for one as soon as possible.
The coming months will be uncertain for employers, and with further Government announcements still to be made and deals to be discussed, the best we can do is to keep ourselves updated on progress and plan accordingly, without leaving it until the last minute.
At Su Allen HR, we will be keeping a close eye on developments throughout 2020, and will be here to provide advice with regards to implications for all aspects of your organisation.