Employers should audit the immigration status of their workforce, review long-term recruitment, and take a number of other steps to manage risks and ensure a smooth transition into a post-Brexit world.
On Friday, 8 December 2017, the UK government and the European Union (EU) released a joint report on the progress of negotiations on the UK withdrawal from the EU.
The key points agreed by the UK government and the EU include the following:
- Confirmation that European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals who lawfully enter the UK prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 29 March 2019 will be permitted to remain in the UK
- Close family members will be able to join EEA and Swiss nationals after the UK has left the EU. This includes spouses, unmarried partners, children, grandchildren, dependent parents, and grandparents
- There will be a two-year grace period following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU within which eligible EEA and Swiss nationals will be able to apply for settled status (eligible nationals will be required to demonstrate that they have lived in the UK for five years)
- EEA and Swiss nationals who acquire settled status will be allowed to leave the UK for up to five years without losing the status
- The UK government has committed to creating a simplified process for individuals applying for settled status to reduce the burden on applicants
- Individuals who have already applied for or have obtained permeant residence under the current EU regulations will be able to apply for settled status for free
Whilst the joint report provides more certainty for employers and EEA and Swiss nationals, it will be followed by a white paper that is expected from the Home Office before the end of 2017.
In the meantime, there are many practical steps that employers can take now to ensure a smooth transition into a post-Brexit world.
- audit the immigration status of their workforce to help plan for change;
- identify EEA and Swiss nationals working in the UK;
- identify UK nationals working elsewhere in the EU;
- check when employees first arrived in the UK or abroad (to determine if they may be eligible to apply for permanent residence);
- review long-term recruitment and succession planning and proposed secondment and rotations;
- decide as a business how to support applications and how much they are able to invest in the process;
- plan employee communications and provide information to employees on the current application process and the proposed changes;
- communicate key application deadlines and advise employees on what needs to be done and when;
- encourage employees to obtain confirmation of their rights by applying for a registration certificate or permanent residence;
- provide practical advice to those who are not yet eligible to apply for permanent residence and the steps that they should be taking right now;
- plan for possible alternative routes post-exit, such as Tier 2 applications; and
- review current right to work procedure to ensure that they prepared for the implication of the widening of the current “right to work” regime.
Businesses can create their own certainty by planning for a range of different outcomes. Act now to ensure that you are making the most of the opportunities and managing the risks. This will not only incentivize your current EEA and Swiss workforce to continue making a valuable contribution to your business when the UK leaves the EU, but it will also ensure a smooth transition into a post-Brexit world.