How Will Brexit Affect HR Directors With EU National Workers?

Brexit EU Handshake image

By Oshin Shahiean of OTS Solicitors

For businesses that employ EU nationals, Brexit is a blow.  HR managers need guidance to understand how Brexit will affect not only the retention of their current staff but how recruitment of EU nationals will be governed in the future.  Will EU citizens be subject to a points-based system, like the one that non-EU nationals face now?  What can be done to support EU staff who may be feeling extremely unsettled and even thinking of returning home?

As Employment and immigration lawyers in London, we are working closely with HR managers in the private and public sector, helping them facilitate strategies designed to reassure current staff and plan for hiring talent post-Brexit.

Business confidence and Brexit

Recruiting decisions are often based on overall business confidence.  If the business community is worried about attracting investment and their ability to meet sales targets in the current market, they are less likely to hire new staff.  A report in last week’s Evening Standard stated that business confidence among London firms remained ‘precarious’.  According to the Standard, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has been advised to put pressure on government ministers to come up with a “clear set” of principles to underpin their Brexit negotiations and ensure the capital’s economy continues to thrive.

HR Magazine reported shortly after the referendum vote that employers were, “dealing with the uncertainty around Brexit by hiring fewer full-time roles, relying instead on temporary workers, and this is likely to continue as uncertainty over the exact form the exit will take continues.”

permanent residence and EU workers

HR managers can take steps to assist EU nationals on their staff by assessing whether they have Permanent Residency status and if they do, encouraging them to apply for their EU Permanent Resident Card.

EU nationals who have lived in the UK and have been exercising their Treaty rights as an employee, self-employed person, self-sufficient person, or student for five continuous years, can apply for a permanent residence Card. Unfortunately, many applicants are refused or reluctant to apply because they do not have the required supporting documentation.

HR teams can work with immigration solicitors to help EU nationals apply for their permanent residence Card by:

  • collating pay slips and Employment contracts for submission to the Home Office
  • assisting employees with filling in the 85-page form
  • keeping EU national employees up-to-date with changes in Brexit policy that may affect them.

Recruiting from the EU post-Brexit

Many industries such as hospitality, agriculture, finance and technology heavily rely on EU nationals to meet their recruiting requirements.  These sectors, along with others have voiced their concerns about getting the talent they need after Britain leaves the EU around 2019.

There have been various suggestions put forward about how migration from the EU will be handled in the future.  These include:

  • Business as usual, for a while.  Prime Minister, Theresa May indicated that freedom of movement might continue post-Brexit, with an “implementation phase” put in place while trade deals are negotiated.
  • A points-based-system, similar to the one used for non-EEA nationals entering the UK was one of the ideas floated for dealing with EU migrants; however, Theresa May has rejected this.

Employers who wish to hire non-EEA nationals must go through a lengthy process of obtaining a Sponsor Licence.  If they are successful, a Resident Labour Marker Test must be undertaken if the position they are recruiting an international worker for is not contained in the Shortage Occupation List.  This test is designed to ensure there are no British citizens who could take the position.  UK Sponsor Licences also have to robustly comply with the duties and responsibilities contained in the Sponsor Guidance.  Additionally, from April 2017, employers will have to pay the £1,000 immigration skills charge each year for every Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa holder they employ.  This is on top of paying the minimum salary.

If parts of the non-EEA points-based-system, such as those outlined in the above paragraph were to apply to HR managers wishing to hire talent from within the EU, the cost recruitment would rise sharply and potentially unsustainably.  At the moment, we do not know how the British government will deal with EU migration after Brexit; the best policy that HR management can adopt in the meantime is to work closely with an immigration lawyer to maintain the talent they already have.

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 HR departments 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 0207 936 9960.

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