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 has, therefore, detailed the best methods for businesses to support their EEA national employees to mitigate against the effects of Brexit.
Prepare your business early
If they haven’t done so already, businesses would be wise to start collating data recording 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. Therefore, 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.
Protecting your employees’ rights
PM 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. The most recent government announcement suggests that the current intention is for EEA nationals who are in the UK before a “specified date” (to be determined”) will be able to stay in the UK but may be required to apply for “settled status” to acknowledge this right. This is subject to negotiation at EU level and it remains to be seen as to what types of application may be introduced, when and to whom.
Application for confirmation of Permanent Residence (“PR”)
As a matter of law, an EEA national who has continuously lived and exercised Treaty Rights (either or in combination as a student, an employee, a self-sufficient person and/or a self-employed person) in the UK for at least 5 years, will have acquired PR. However, as a matter of practice, an EEA national cannot prove that they have acquired PR in the UK without applying to the UKVI for confirmation of PR. It is not mandatory for EEA nationals to apply for this confirmation and, indeed, if the government intention outlined above comes into force, even those with confirmation of PR may be required to make another application for “settled status” in the future. However, we expect (though cannot guarantee) that any such applications for “settled status” will be more streamlined for those who already hold confirmation of PR. Furthermore, EEA nationals looking to apply for British nationality are now required to obtain confirmation of PR and proof of having held PR status for at least 12 months before being eligible to apply. In certain instances, the family members of an EEA National can also qualify for PR as well.
SA Law runs regular training sessions for HR professionals who are keen to learn the ins-and-outs of the PR application process. We provide an in-depth look at both the law and application requirements, in particular the rules regarding the necessary documents needed. We also offer one-to-one consultations with EEA nationals to discuss their individual circumstances.
For those EEA nationals who do not qualify for PR, 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.
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 here.
Contact SA Law for further assistance with your immigration needs, including setting up training sessions and assistance for EEA nationals/HR.