Brexit Update: What businesses can do to support their employees
The UK is currently in a state of great uncertainty following the 2016 EU referendum. Not only are EEA citizens worried about their ability to remain in the UK following Brexit, but many businesses may suffer if valued EEA national employees do not have their rights protected by the government. SA Law's immigration solicitors have detailed the best methods for businesses to support their EEA national employees to mitigate against the effects of Brexit.
Take steps to prepare your business early
Businesses would be wise to start collating data that records the nationalities of their employees. The purpose of this is to identify those at risk of being affected by Brexit so that they can be given the necessary support. Businesses may already have recorded this information, either within their HR systems, or through alternative records such as Right to Work checks.
However, not all businesses will have this information in an easily accessible place. HR professionals may wish to spend some time talking to employees to identify those at risk as a result of Brexit, namely EEA nationals and family members of EEA nationals. Click here to read my previous article on Brexit FAQs for more information.
Protecting your employees’ rights during Brexit
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested that her government will remove EEA citizens’ freedom of movement to the UK following Brexit. There is much ambiguity whether those EEA nationals already in the UK will have their rights protected in order for them to stay.
For those EEA nationals who have been in the UK for a good number of years, it is advisable that they to look to protect their rights by applying for an EEA Permanent Residence document. (Click here to download our pdf flowchart for more information).
Permanent Residence is the equivalent of Indefinite Leave to Remain (a status acquired by non-EEA nationals after they have held a visa for a specified number of years). An EEA national with Permanent Residence will benefit not only from a more secure status than other EEA nationals who are defined as Qualified Persons, but they also acquire most of the same rights afforded to UK citizens. Furthermore, EEA nationals looking to apply for British nationality are now required to obtain confirmation that they hold Permanent Residence.
In order to acquire Permanent Residence, an EEA national must have resided in the UK for 5 continuous years either or in combination as a student, an employee, a self-sufficient person and/or a self-employed person in the UK. In certain instances, the family members of an EEA National can also qualify for Permanent Residence as well.
Support your staff
The greatest worry for many employees at the moment is the risk that they might be forced to leave the UK. This fear, whether founded or unfounded, may result in many skilled employees simply leaving the country for opportunities abroad where they can be more certain about their rights.
Given the current confusion, it is important to remain supportive for worried EEA employees. By communicating effectively with employees, businesses maximise the chances of keeping their workers.
SA Law runs regular training sessions for HR professionals who are keen to learn the ins-and-outs of the Permanent Residence application process. We provide an in-depth look at both the law and application requirements, in particular the rules regarding the necessary documents needed.
For those EEA nationals who do not qualify for Permanent Residence, it may be advisable to apply for a registration certificate in order to evidence the fact that they are a qualified person. SA Law can advise on the intricacies of such applications.