With the UK set to leave the EU, with a deal, on 31 January 2020 there is now clarity on the rights of existing workers and the immediate future of recruitment. With this in mind, here are my top priorities for Brexit preparations:
1) Auditing staff records
Hopefully this is something which has already been done, but if not a business should be auditing their records now. This allows employers to identify EU nationals, and other employees, likely to be affected by Brexit.
Having a list of the staff who need to register with the Home Office will help a business communicate with affected staff, and monitor registrations as the year progresses. A business which does not have this list will struggle as the year progresses and increases the chances of accidently employing an illegal worker in the future.
2) Make sure staff are aware of the need to register
Anyone who follows the news, will have heard the various Government statements confirming that EU nationals who live in the UK can stay after Brexit, but not everyone is aware of the three words that need to follow that statement…."if they register".
I've presented details of the EU Settlement scheme to various groups, including employees in a wide range of sectors, and some of the misconceptions I've come across are:
- I don't need to register, I got a permanent residence card a few years ago;
- I don't need to register, I'm married to a Scot; and
- I don't need to register, I'm working in the public sector.
The only exception to registration is holding a British or Irish passport. Everyone else has to register regardless of circumstances.
I also regularly hear that people don't intend to register, because they don't think the Home Office can force them to leave the UK. My response to this is always to say "The Home Office don't need to force you to leave if you don't register". If someone doesn't register they will:
- Lose their right to work;
- Lose their right to hold a UK driving licence;
- Lose their right to access public services; and
- Face the possibility of having their bank account frozen.
It is vital that staff are made aware of the need to register, an employer cannot register on their behalf. The earlier this information is communicated to staff, the better.
3) Consider recruitment options
Just as there are misconceptions with EU nationals already living in the UK, there are misconceptions for EU nationals elsewhere. Many people believe that EU nationals can't move to the UK after 31 January 2020, but they can continue to move here, and register, until the end of the year.
This means that for the remainder of the year, employers can continue to recruit as normal. If your business regularly recruits from the EU you might wish to consider preparing an information sheet for applicants to help ease fears of potential recruits.
4) Remain vigilant
Over the next 12 months employers will need to regularly review:
- Which employees have registered with the Home Office, and who still has to complete the process;
- Any developments in relation to a potential new immigration system; and
- Any changes to the right to work process as the Home Office introduce digital statuses.
Overall, Brexit preparation will remain a top priority over the next 12 months and it is not something businesses can ignore. The more steps a business takes now, the easier this process will be and the more risks will be minimised.
If you are concerned about the affect of Brexit on your staffing, please get in touch and we can help you to prepare and prioritise.