Brexit has been the controversial word on everybody’s lips since the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) on Thursday 23rd June 2016. Some political commentators have warned that societal apathy is becoming dangerous as people tire of hearing about Brexit, choosing to sleepwalk towards the March 29th leave date. UK employers, however, do not have the option to ignore Brexit.
Taking away trade deals, personal opinions and EU policy crossover, one really important thing to EU workers in the UK is the EU Settlement Scheme. It is therefore crucially important that employers familiarise themselves with the scheme, and how it applies to their organisation. Communicating to your workforce, or at least those affected by the scheme, will pay dividends to your business, but most importantly, to your workers.
What is it?
The EU Settlement Scheme requires some EU citizens and their families to apply to be able to remain in the UK after 30 June 2021. It is thought to affect around 3 million people living in the UK and the application process will be live by 30 March 2019. The deadline for application is 30 June 2021 if the UK leaves the EU with a deal, or 31 December 2020 if we leave with no deal.
Applications can be submitted online with support available via telephone or in person if required. There’s also the option to send the documentation by post.
As the scheme is in a ‘test phase’ at present, there is a fee of £65 for those who are 16 or over, and £32.50 for those under 16. This fee will be reimbursed and the whole process will be free (and without an initial fee) once the system is fully live on 30 March 2019.
Are there any exemptions?
The UK has reached separate agreements with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein so workers who were born in these countries will not have to go through the process in quite the same way.
Similarly, Irish citizens and EU citizens with ‘indefinite leave to remain’ will not have to sign up to the scheme.
What if the application is unsuccessful?
The government will grant ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status to those who qualify under the new scheme. If for whatever reason an individual’s application is unsuccessful, they will have the right to appeal.
What should employers communicate to employees?
The likelihood is that your EU employees are already well aware of the implications and uncertainty Brexit will bring to their residency in the UK. Showing your support as an employer may help to alleviate some of their burden.
A good place to start would be the government’s dedicated toolkit, designed to guide employers through the process, with lots of information to circulate to staff. It includes posters, brochures for both employers and employees, videos, and lots of helpful, up to date, information surrounding the EU Settlement Scheme.
It’s important that all staff who fall under the criteria of the EU Settlement Scheme successfully apply before the deadline, as those who fail to apply –or fail the process without a successful appeal – will be living in the country illegally after 30 June 2021.
When communicating with staff, ensure that you are only communicating facts. If you are providing information through your organisation’s website or intranet, make sure that it is up to date, and regularly cross-checked with the continuously mobile policies surrounding Brexit.
What action should employers be taking now?
Although the deadline isn’t for a couple of years, there are a number of actions that employers can undertake now to streamline the process once it’s in place. Actions include:
- Conducting a workforce audit
Who is affected by Brexit in your workforce? What about their partners? Often overlooked, this could have a huge effect on your workforce come 2020. Identifying potential barriers now, and providing and information where possible, will help to make the process easier for your employees. Furthermore, ensure you have all the appropriate right to work documentation for relevant employees.
- Consider your talent pipeline
Prepare a “worst case scenario” plan for your business based on the results from the above audit. It is unlikely that most EU citizens will be rejected by the scheme, but plan as though some of your EU employees choose to leave the UK, or are rejected by the scheme. Which areas of your business will be impacted the most? Have you got a plan in place to replenish your workforce?
- Hosting workshops
Sometimes face-to-face help and support can be absorbed and appreciated more than digital communications. Dedicated workshops for EU employees will help empower them with the information they will need in the coming months and years.
- Consider your organisation’s financial input
Though it is not required, employers might consider paying the fee for their employees. The fees are set to be reimbursed by the government, but the immediate £65 fee may be a costly expense to many families and individuals. Heathrow Airport and Carluccio’s are two examples of large companies that have said that they will set aside funds to support their employees with the fees. For organisations that can afford to consider this, it would offer significant support to their workforce by reducing worries around costs for anyone who applies between now and 30 March.
We hope you found this article useful. If you would like any help communicating with your employees, or further information, please contact us on 01271 859 267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.