How to manage your EU staff as Brexit approaches

Peninsula Team

February 14 2019

With Brexit just a matter of weeks away it is important to get your house in order and those with a significant number of European workers should give consideration to how the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) could impact staff.

By now you are likely to be aware of the EU Settlement Scheme and it would be wise to ensure that your European staff are similarly informed. Taking the effort to tell EU nationals about their right to obtain settled or pre-settled status is advisable as this could ultimately encourage staff to apply for the right to remain in the UK post-Brexit. This information can be easily distributed by issuing a key facts document which outlines the various implications of a deal or no-deal Brexit for EU workers.

Under the EU Settlement Scheme eligible individuals must apply by providing proof of identification, information on their current living arrangements and confirmation of any previous criminal convictions. The government have confirmed that applications must be completed on the Home Office’s website by using either a PC or an Android device. Consider where you may need to assist staff with their applications, either by offering translation services or allowing them to use your works’ computers if they do not have access to one at home.

Whilst it is a good idea to help staff with applications it is important not to put any pressure on EU workers to apply, or treat them any less favourably should they confirm they do not intend to remain in the UK in the future. Simply dismissing, or withholding benefits, from those who are not planning on staying in the UK long term could lead to claims of unfair dismissal and race discrimination.

You should also be wary of any hostile or discriminatory behaviour towards European staff in the lead up to, and following, 29th March 2019 which is when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. Keep a close eye on colleagues who use hostile language or make jokes around workers’ nationalities, as even though this may be meant as workplace ‘banter’ it could constitute harassment if the employee takes offence. Special attention may also need to be given to staff who work in a customer facing environment as this brings the added risk of third party harassment at the hands of clients or the general public.

Following Brexit you should keep a close eye on future developments around immigration laws as this could influence recruitment practices going forwards. Rules may differ slightly depending on whether a deal is agreed with the EU, and it is important to do your due diligence and ensure you are acting in accordance with the laws when hiring foreign workers in the future.

Keep in mind that deciding on whether to apply for settled status may be a difficult and deeply personal decision for many. As an employer it is important to consider the needs of your EU workers during this time and ensure line managers and HR personal feel comfortable should they have to deal with any related issues at work.

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