As the UK left the EU earlier this year, a transition period is currently in place until 11.00pm on 31 December 2020. During this time, the right of free movement for UK and EEA nationals remains the same, but from 1 January 2021, a new immigration system will come into force. Employers need to be preparing for the end of the Brexit transition period now.
As an employer, it’s important that you prepare your employees for the end of the Brexit transition period. If you have UK employees based in Europe (UK nationals) and European employees based in the UK (EEA nationals), there will be a number of things you will need to consider. In this article, we share some guidance on how you can manage and support your employees to mitigate the potential impact caused by the end of free movement.
Preparing for the end of the Brexit transition period
A workforce audit will help you to identify which employees are EU, EEA citizens or Swiss nationals and the total number of employees which are required to apply for settlement or pre-settlement status by 30th June 2021.
EU Settlement Scheme
The withdrawal agreement reached between the UK and the EU requires all EU, EEA citizens and Swiss nationals residing in the UK (with the exception of Irish nationals) to apply for settled or pre-settled status by 30th June 2021. The scheme is open now and free to use. Employees must also apply if they hold a ‘permanent residence document’.Warning
Employers must not ask employees about their settled status at this time, the government guidance states:
You have a duty not to discriminate against EU, EEA citizens or Swiss nationals. You cannot require them to show you their status under the EU Settlement Scheme until after 30 June 2021.
Monitor schemes and changes to rules
Once you have identified employees who are either EU, EEA citizens or Swiss nationals in the UK or British nationals in the EEA, you will need to monitor any forthcoming settlement schemes that will affect their immigration status. Assess how any government proposals for a new UK immigration regime could impact your organisation at the end of the transition period, along with the cost of offering immigration assistance to any affected employees.
EEA nationals working in the UK
A UK government policy statement published on 19 February 2020, outlined plans for a points-based immigration system, which is still undergoing ratification. A single system for skilled workers has been proposed, which would require employer sponsorship, the ability to speak English and a minimum skill level. Read more about this in the government guidance, Recruiting people from outside the UK from 1 January 2021.
EEA business travellers to the UK
After 1 January 2021, EU, EEA citizens and Swiss nationals entering the UK for business purposes won’t need a visa, but it’s important to ensure their activities are business-related. For example, this would cover a conference or meeting, but work-related training would need to be assessed in terms of whether this could be carried out in the traveller’s home country. You will also need to consider how long they plan to remain in the UK and carefully take into account any planned longer stays or where multiple trips are involved.
Conduct a workforce planning exercise
As a result of employees’ changing immigration status, your organisation may be faced with skill gaps and labour shortages. Using data from your information audit, carry out a workforce planning exercise to determine the specific business areas and job roles that will be affected. If you have employees that will continue to be frequent business travellers, then gain an understanding of business visitor rules across different EEA countries.
Communicate the potential impact of Brexit
To assist with engagement, it is advisable to keep an open channel of communication with your employees. It’s vital that your workforce understands the level of support available in relation to their settlement status, as well as their future role within your organisation.
Need HR Advice on how you can support employees who are EU, EEA citizens and Swiss nationals once we reach the end of the Brexit transition period? Please call us today on 01455 231982 or 07716 91272, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond as soon as possible.