Ever since the decision was made for the UK to exit the European Union (EU) employers have been concerned about how this will impact their ability to continue to employ EU workers. Acting to appease fears surrounding a mass ‘Brexodus’ the Home Office have recently confirmed the implementation of a new Settled Status for existing EU workers, granting them the right to remain in the UK once the Brexit transition period is over.
It has been announced that those who have lived in the UK for five years prior to 31st December 2020 would be able to apply for this status and could do so by answering ‘3 simple questions’ on the government’s designated website. Individuals will be asked to provide a form of photographic identification, confirm their current living arrangement in the UK and disclose any previous criminal convictions. It was stated that the default position of the government would be to accept applications, which if granted would allow individuals the opportunity to live and work in the UK legally following 30th June 2021.
This announcement offers welcome relief to employers. At the very least it has confirmed that they will be acting in accordance with the law by offering new employment to EU workers up until 31st December 2020 and can continue to employ them after 30th June 2021 provided they apply for the appropriate status.
Additionally, the opportunity to apply for settled status means that EU nationals already in the UK have the chance to stay and work in the UK indefinitely. Employers in industries such as retail and hospitality, which typically contain a significant number of European workers, will be particularly grateful with this prospect as a large number staff have the freedom to choose for themselves whether or not to remain in the UK following the end of the Brexit transition period.
In light of these developments there are several steps that employers should look to take to support staff. First and foremost, it would be wise to keep EU workers up to date with current and future developments.
Additionally, employers should make sure HR staff are familiar with the protocol and are comfortable enough to answer any employee queries on the matter, particularly as misunderstandings may occur for staff whose first language is not English. However, employees should be directed to official Home Office channels for specific immigration advice.
Whilst it is important to be aware of employees’ intentions in advance of the 30th June 2021 deadline, employers should still keep in mind that the decision to remain in the UK will not be straightforward for some. Appropriate steps must be taken to balance the need to protect business interests whilst ensuring EU workers do not feel harassed or suffer any detriment should they choose not to take up settled status.