With no firm date for Brexit, the UK remains in a state of limbo with considerable uncertainty in particular for Europeans currently working in the UK and their employers.
What should employers do?
Given that there will not be any immediate changes to immigration law and practices, HR should continue to look after the workforce whilst taking some practical steps so that it is prepared to make decisions when the situation becomes clearer.
If you haven’t already done so, communicate with your workforce. Both European and non-European workers will be feeling unsettled by the referendum and its implications for their jobs and families. Even though very little is known at this stage, simply acknowledging the uncertainly and giving people a way to voice their concerns and raise questions will be helpful.
Carry out a workforce audit to establish how many of your employees may be affected if your business is unable to employ European workers as easily. This will help to identify areas that will be affected disproportionately, any hard to recruit areas as well as people in key roles that may seek to leave before Brexit takes place.
Keep checking right to work documents
At the moment citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) are able to work freely in the UK. HR should continue to make the necessary right to work checks on these employees before they start employment. This is important as failure to carry out proper right to work checks can lead to civil penalties and affect your organisation’s ability to register as a sponsor in the future – which may become increasingly important (see below).
Consider registering as a licensed sponsor
If your business is not already registered as a licensed sponsor under Tier 2 of the Points Based System, it is sensible to consider making an application now. A sponsorship licence enables organisations to recruit workers from outside the EEA. This is important for three reasons:
- It is not getting any easier to apply to sponsor non EEA workers – each time the UKVI publish rule changes it becomes harder, more costly and more restrictive.
- If it is now going to be harder to recruit talent from inside the EEA, organisations may need to recruit talent from outside the EEA which requires a sponsor licence.
- A sponsor licence may be required in the future to recruit EEA workers. It makes sense to prepare for this now.
Plan for the future
If your organisation is dependent on highly skilled EEA employees there may be additional legal and visa costs that need to be budgeted for. There may also be less flexibility and greater delays in the recruitment process and financial or other incentives may be required to make your organisation attractive to highly skilled EEA nationals.
HR should be proactive in retaining existing key employees in light of the current uncertainty. Wherever possible it should provide them with access to specialist support, advice and information.
Boyes Turner's Business Immigration team can assist with workforce planning in light of Brexit, right to work audits and training and immigration advice and assistance.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.