Hiring EU Workers In A Post-Brexit World

Industries such as food production, agriculture, hospitality and manufacturing face being fundamentally being changed forever by Brexit.

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One question on the lips of employers in these and other sectors is, “what shape will EU recruitment take once Britain leaves the EU”?  Even the best immigration lawyers in London, where many EU workers reside, are unable to answer this question concisely.

To give an idea of the scale of the problem faced by some industries, consider figures provided by The Independent in a recent article:

  • EU national workers make up more than 30% of all Employees in the manufacture of food products, including jobs like processing cheese and meat, making baked goods and animal slaughter
  • almost a quarter of domestic personnel such as housekeepers and carers come from the EU
  • one-fifth of those recruited in the accommodation sector, hotels and other tourist industries, are EU citizens

So far, the government has been alarmingly ambiguous on how the recruitment of EU citizens will function after the UK formally leaves the union in 2019. 

Suggestions by the government around EU citizen recruitment

There have been several possible models mooted by Prime Minister Theresa May for recruitment of EU workers after Brexit:

The Australian way

Prior to the EU referendum being held last June, the idea of having a Points-Based System, like the one used in Australia was raised.  This system selects the migrants allowed into the country on their likely contribution to society and is aimed at encouraging skilled workers and those sponsored by employers.

Skilled workers are required to score at least 60 points to gain entry to the ‘lucky country’. These are awarded for factors including age, recognised qualifications and previous experience working abroad.  For example, skilled Employment earns up to 20 points and 25 to 32-year-olds automatically get 30.

The UK already has a similar system for non-EU migrants.  The Points-Based System currently classifies non-EU nationals wanting to apply for visas into four Tiers, e.g. Tier 2 (General) or Tier 1 (Entrepreneur). 

However, when it comes to EU workers, Theresa May has rejected the Points-Based System explaining, “A points-based system will not work and is not an option.”  It is believed that Mrs May holds the view that an Australian-style system would not provide the rigidity needed for controlling immigration.

The Conservative government manifesto states that it wants to cut immigration numbers into the ‘tens of thousands’.  An Australian style Points-Based System was rejected because it is not tough enough.  If a Points-Based System is created for the recruitment of EU national workers, it could be very strict; for example, a restriction may be placed on EU workers bringing their families to live with them in the UK.  The current Resident Labour Market Test and/or the Sponsorship Licence scheme could be made tougher for employers wanting to hire talent from the EU.

Revisit Tier 3

Tier 3, which was a path intended for unskilled migrants, was never introduced, as it was viewed as unnecessary.  Given that EU nationals make up much of the unskilled workforce in the UK, the Tier 3 visa may be revisited in the next few years.  However, it must be said that the government has yet to state this as an option.

An implementation phase

The most likely situation is the status quo will apply to freedom of movement from the EU for a set period post-Brexit while trade deals with the bloc are negotiated.  There is likely to be a caveat on this, however; EU nationals who come to the UK after a certain date are unlikely to have an automatic right to Permanent Residency after five years.

What should employers do?

Because there is no certainty around how the government will deal with EU citizen recruitment post-Brexit, employers can do little to prepare for it.  If you currently have EU nationals working in your organisation, the advice from the best immigration solicitors is to help them apply for documentation to prove their residency rights.  These documents can include Permanent Residence Cards, Registration Certificate or British Citizenship, depending on how long they have lived in the UK.

We will keep you updated on the development of this key Brexit related issue.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected immigration law firms in London.  By making an appointment with one of our immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today.  Our business immigration solicitors, Teni Shahiean, Oshin Shahiean, Najma Ali and Dr Lusine Navasardyan, have extensive experience in assisting employers in all commercial immigration matters, including those related to Brexit.

If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123.



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