Even though free movement isn’t ending immediately, and the status of EU workers currently residing in the UK is likely to be protected, there is obviously going to be a degree of uncertainty and the prospect of an unsettled workforce for a while. Even if your EU workers will qualify for ‘settled status’ they may not know this, and will still need to go through a process to obtain it.
Many employers will want to provide support and reassurance to affected staff, and here are some things you could consider to ease the process.
1. Communicate your own position
This could take the form of either communication to your entire workforce or targeted to affected individuals. If you are conducting an audit to establish the extent of how changes to immigration rules will affect your workforce, consider sending some kind of communication beforehand, so that you are explaining what you are doing and why, and won’t create a panic as you ask for details of nationalities and length of residence in the UK.
As well as explaining any audit you might be undertaking, some reassurance as to your commitment to supporting EU workers would be appropriate, along with details of any support or information you will be providing, how this will be made available, and details of who workers should approach with any queries.
2. Provide information about processes involved
It is possible for workers to take steps to obtain residence status under the current rules, through naturalisation or other options, and you could consider providing details of how to do that, and support for doing so.
However the government is proposing a new system and states that there is no need for EU workers to seek documentation now. Indeed documentation may become invalid and repeat applications necessary anyway. Therefore it may well be best to wait until the new rules are confirmed and to offer support and information about that.
You could also provide signposts to information about the different options and processes.
3. Provide access to legal advice
You could consider providing access to some sort of legal advice in respect of immigration status issues/applications for settled status under the new scheme. This could be full support through a solicitor, access to a helpline through a provider, or you could arrange a surgery with an adviser coming in and employees able to book appointments.
4. Provide financial assistance with fees
Making applications for residence/citizenship/settled status will come with fees attached and particularly if your EU workers are low paid, you may want to consider providing assistance with these, as well as information and other support. If you do this, make sure you are clear about any terms and conditions attached to financial assistance, who the support applies to and how employees should access it.
If you would like more guidance on supporting your EU workers through Brexit do get in touch.