Employing EU workers after Brexit
If the United Kingdom leaves the EU without a deal on 31st October, what does it mean if you have EU nationals among your workforce? There are five main areas you will need to consider...
1. Remaining in the UK
Firstly, the EU Settlement Scheme is a government initiative that allows existing EU nationals residing in the UK to apply for the indefinite right to remain after Brexit. It should be remembered that settled status will only be granted to those who have resided in the UK for at least 5 years – anything less than this will mean individuals will be granted pre-settled status.
EU nationals already in the UK will have until 31st December 2020 to apply for settled status and this will not change in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Any non-EU nationals who are working here may face visa fees to remain. As an employer if you choose to pay these it is a benefit in kind that would need reporting on the P11D or including in your PSA. This would also apply to any settlement fees paid before these were scrapped in January of this year – they should have been included in the employee’s P11D unless they reimbursed you when they received a refund.
It is advisable to make information on EU nationals rights easily available and kept up-to-date with actions required ahead of 31st December 2020, should they wish to continue to reside in the UK – do not force this on them. If there are certain areas of your business with a high proportion of EU workers, consider what the impact of pre-settled status would be and plan for the worst-case scenario.
Remember, from the point of Brexit to 31st December 2020, employers can continue to employ any EU nationals that are already part of their workforce.
2. Freedom of movement
If you noticed the emphasis placed on ‘already part of your workforce’ in the previous section, this next point will come as no surprise.
A no-deal Brexit means freedom of movement within the EU will end with immediate effect from 31st October. From then, no EU nationals from outside the UK will be able to arrive and begin working without a visa.
As an employer, you should consider what impact the loss of this pool of workers could mean for your business.
3. Managing the situation with EU workers
Applying for settled status is a highly personal decision for EU nationals, and some might decide it is not the right thing for them.
Existing EU nationals can still live and work in the UK freely until 31st December 2020 – dismissing them before then if they do not want to apply for settled status could be classed as discrimination.
The best advice is to act with sensitivity and respect, inform employees of their rights, reassure, but do not enforce or pressurise. If you employ a large number of EU nationals, consider what the impact will be on your business if they choose not to opt for settled status and create a back-up plan.
4. Employment rights for EU workers
A no-deal Brexit will still mean that EU nationals already in the UK are entitled to all of the same employment rights afforded to them, including those under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Working Time Regulations 1998.
Similar to the above, EU workers with the right to remain in the UK will also continue to be protected by the Equality Act 2010.
Always keep an eye on acts of discrimination – at times of political unrest or upheaval as with Brexit, this can result in people (in this case EU nationals) being subject to conscious or unconscious discrimination. Ensure your policy on bullying and harassment is clearly communicated to all employees.
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