Many of our clients are heavily reliant on workers from other EU countries in their business and are understandably concerned about the impact of changes to immigration rules on their workforce.
Here are some steps you can take to identify how these changes will affect your business, which should enable you to put steps in place to address any issues.
1. Understand what’s likely to happen
Part of the problem is of course that nothing is yet set in stone. But it is possible to make initial plans as various documents the government has issued have outlined the likely outcome in respect of immigration changes as follows:
- Free movement of EU individuals will end, with some kind of immigration system imposing controls on numbers while encouraging “the brightest and the best” to come to the UK.
- Rights of those EU workers currently in the UK should be secured – if they’ve been in the UK for more than 5 years before a (not yet) specified date after the referendum they should be able to apply for ‘settled status’. If they have been here since before that but not five years, they should be able to get temporary status and then settled status later on. If they arrived after the date, their position is likely to be less certain long-term.
- There will be a phased approach to bringing in whatever the new system is so that there is time to plan ahead
2. Know what your current situation actually is
In order to understand how immigration changes will affect your business you will need to conduct an audit of your current workforce. You will need to know what their nationality is, what job and department they are in, how long they’ve been working for you, and how long they have been resident in the UK.
You may already have all this information quite easily to hand, and should obviously have details of every member of staff’s right to work in the UK already, but putting it together so you have an overall picture will help you decide on what steps you need to take. It will also help you identify any gaps in the data you hold so that you can get these filled.
3. Assess the impact
Once you’ve got a clear idea of exactly what EU nationals you have working in your business, in what roles, for how long and with how much residency, you can analyse how the proposed immigration rules changes will affect your workforce in terms of employees who may be affected, those who may qualify for settled status, and those who may require assistance, support or information.
You will also then be in a position to identify whether any particular areas of your business are likely to be particularly vulnerable to labour shortages or disruption and start to make plans for that.
4. Monitor progress and adjust plans
Because nothing is yet set in stone you will need to continue to monitor developments as negotiations continue, requirements and procedures are clarified and the exit date of March 2019 approaches.
If you would like more guidance on the impact Brexit may have on immigration changes affecting your workforce do get in touch.