Two stories have made the headlines today, and both relate to stretched resources. The stories look at preparing the UK immigration system for after Brexit, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) enforcing employers to publish gender pay gap information.
The House of Commons has waded in with its view that it is unlikely the UK will have an immigration system in place for when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. The government has not published its future policy. This is causing distress for EU citizens living in Britain, and for UK businesses that rely on EU citizens. The number of EU citizens that will need to register as having the right to be in the UK is estimated at three million. Border force agencies will struggle to carry out checks on EU citizens arriving in the UK. UK Visas & Immigration, and Immigration Enforcement, will also feel the impact of the extra caseload. These services are already finding it difficult to cope, resulting in occasional poor decision-making. We have worked with clients to correct poor decisions. A white paper is due to be published. Already outstanding from last autumn, there are now no guarantees that it will be published before March 2019. Ministers working on the white paper have said the delay is to consider the Migration Advisory Committee’s report due in September 2018. Dentons fed into this report, so we hope to see the collated views of our clients reflected in the future shape of UK immigration rules.
Companies with 250 or more employees are to report their gender pay gap difference by 4 April. Questions have already been raised about whether the gender pay gap regulations have teeth to motivate business to properly comply. On top of this, it seems likely the EHRC will struggle with having sufficient resources to enforce the regulations. However, Rebecca Hilsenrath, CEO of the EHRC, has distanced the EHRC from the responsibility of ensuring compliance. She has described the EHRC to the Financial Times as a “strategic enforcer”. “[The EHRC looks] at novel points of law, … at cases which will clarify the law, … where impact lies.” Therefore, the EHRC does not see itself as taking on all cases where there is a breach of the Equality Act. This bears out in the EHRC’s budget information. The government is not allocating additional resources for work on gender pay reporting. The EHRC will seek to increase its budget if many companies fail to comply with gender pay reporting. Having already seen its funding cut by 25% in the 2016-2020 spending review, a crystal ball is probably not needed to decide the outcome of any request for a budget increase.