What can employers do now to help support their EU employees? Prepare for the scheme to secure residence that the Home Office will shortly provide

One of the most pressing issues for employers in relation to Brexit is immigration and the rights of EU citizens following the UK’s exit from the EU. Many UK businesses hire EU workers, with some sectors such as agriculture being particularly dependent on seasonal EU workers; still more will employ individuals who have family members who are EU nationals. In order that employers can effectively support affected employees, it is important to be aware of the process that EU citizens/workers will require to go through in order to remain in the UK.

EU citizen status post-Brexit

The Home Office has published the three steps EU citizens will need to take in order to obtain settled status in the UK following Brexit. EU citizens will need to complete these steps if they wish to remain in the UK after 30 June 2021. Irish citizens and those who already have indefinite leave to remain do not need to apply.

In order to apply for settled status, EU citizens must have lived in the UK for five years.

Individuals must:
(1) prove their identity as an EU citizen (via passport/ID card);
(2) prove their residence in the UK (P60, bank statements, utility bills); and
(3) declare any past criminal convictions.

EU citizens who have lived in UK for less than five years can apply for "pre-settled status". This will enable them to live in the UK until they reach the five year period, when they can then apply for settled status.

There is a £65 fee for the application, which is reduced by 50% for children under 16. There will be no fee for:

  • those who already have valid indefinite leave to remain or a valid permanent residence document;
  • an application to move from pre-settled status to settled status; or
  • children in local authority care.

The scheme is set to open from late 2018 before becoming fully operational by 30 March 2019. Further details on the scheme can be found here.

What can employers do now to support staff?

Good communication is essential for the mental wellbeing of employees, and it is also important for employers to have a good understanding of the intentions of their employees regarding any application for settled status.

Further, it is important to reassure employees that if they do apply for settled status or pre-settled status, they will not lose any rights in the workplace. Employers should begin to look at ways in which they can support staff through the application process, and beyond, whether that may be assisting with the fee or helping with the actual application.

Employers should look at the EU Settlement Scheme: employer toolkit, which was published on 25 July 2018. The toolkit provides helpful information and material to help employers support EU citizens and their families through the settlement scheme process. As well as providing basic information, the toolkit contains promotional material that employers can use to communicate key dates in the process to their EU staff.

While the toolkit is welcome, the information it contains is basic. There will be situations where employers may also want to seek legal advice or specific immigration advice to address any concerns they or their employees have.

As the UK Government releases further information, certain aspects of this advice may be liable to change; we anticipate that this might occur when the application process opens, and the rules which will apply to EU workers who arrive after December 2020 are also unknown.

This is a difficult time for EU workers, their families and their employers, so it is important for employers to communicate effectively with their staff.

The Author
Jacqueline Moore is head of Immigration with Shepherd & Wedderburn LLP. For more information, contact 0131 473 5451 or jacqueline.moore@shepwedd.com
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