Immigration focus: Reassuring EU employees

The recent report by the Office for National Statistics shows a continued trend of net EU migration decreasing, including fewer EU nationals coming to the UK to look for work. Against this backdrop, one might expect to see all the stops being pulled out, to ensure the existing pool of EU workers is retained, as far as possible.

This could include helping EU nationals to secure their rights before Brexit, and preparing them for the new mandatory system of registration: the EU Settlement Scheme.

Yet a new, major study by Blacks Solicitors has shown that employers across Yorkshire remain in the dark about what these immigration changes are, and how they will affect their workforce. Can the Government do more? Do employers need to step in?

Immigration Expert at Blacks Solicitors, Louis MacWilliam, discusses how businesses can reassure employees ahead of the changes.

The study

“Our research was based on a survey put to business leaders across Yorkshire. The research showed that nearly half (48%) have limited or no understanding of how the Brexit process will affect employees. Furthermore, 45% of those interviewed feel underprepared around the recent changes.”

Failing to get the message across?

“Both the ONS survey and our study were conducted after the Government had agreed the transition period and announced the terms of the EU Settlement Scheme. These changes effectively secure the long-term rights of EU nationals currently in the UK, as well as those who arrive by the end of 2020. Yet in spite of these publicised changes, employers of EU nationals still feel in the dark.”

What is the message?

“EU nationals will need to register on the EU Settlement Scheme, which opens ‘later this year’. Those with five years’ residence will qualify for ‘settled status’, which means indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Those with less than 5 years can apply for ‘pre-settled status’, which allows these people to continue to live and work here.

“They can then register again for settled status once they have hit the five year mark. This particular form of ILR cannot be lost unless the individual is absent from the UK for five years. This is longer than the standard rule for non EU nationals, under which ILR is lost after 2 years’ absence. Furthermore, EU nationals do not need to prove they have been ‘economically active’ as they do at present: they just have to prove physical residence in the UK. So it is not all bad news here.”

“The other part of the message to get across is that many EU nationals, and their family members, can secure their long-term future now, before Britain leaves the UK. This can be achieved by obtaining British citizenship, or in many cases by obtaining a permanent residence document.”

Should the employer step in?

“The Government has published information about the EU Settlement Scheme, but its website will not address individual circumstances (i.e. whether a particular EU national should become British, apply for EU documentation now, or wait to register on the EU Settlement Scheme).

“Employers might therefore want to take a proactive approach and take advice.  

“Yorkshire businesses rely heavily on EU labour and employers can play an important role in securing the rights of their EU employees. This includes ensuring employees are aware of any eligibility to apply for British citizenship or EU documentation before we leave the EU, as well as the new mandatory system of registration for EU nationals.”

“The specialist Business Immigration team at Blacks can assist businesses, including offering on-site support. We can:

  • Provide a seminar or workshop to EU employees
  • Assess individual eligibility and explain how to become British, obtain EU documentation pre-Brexit, or register under the new EU Settlement Scheme
  • Give one-off advice to any other migrant employees

“We can also:

  • Review the status of all migrant employees to see how Brexit will affect recruitment
  • Verify that correct Right to Work checks have been completed and advise on best practice.”

For further information, contact Louis MacWilliam via email, or call him today on 0113 322 2842.