Technology businesses operate across national boundaries and with international workforces. The uncertainties surrounding Brexit, the “deal or no deal?” question; together with the suggested extension to this uncertainty, is likely to give these businesses more cause for concern about the impact of Brexit on the current and future make up of their workforces going forward. The answer to “deal or no deal?” has huge ramifications for these employers and their workforces.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) have reported on what they think the immigration playing field should look like in the event of a no deal exit from the European Union. They foresee an extension of the existing Tier 2 sponsorship system, aimed at medium and highly skilled workers, with all overseas workers being treated identically and no special provision made for European workers. The Government are yet to decide on what they will do in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, but have indicated general support for the approach advocated by the MAC.
Practical steps to take now for a “no deal” Brexit
What can tech businesses do practically now to ensure that they retain, as far as possible, their workforce in the light of a “no deal” Brexit?
- Tech businesses should audit their workforce now to understand its composition. This must include not just employees but also any business-critical contractors who may lose their right to work in the United Kingdom if there is a no deal Brexit.
- Do they already have a Sponsor Licence because they have engaged with workers who have come from outside the EU?
- If registered as a sponsor, is the organisation currently complying with the sponsorship duties?
- If it does not have a Sponsor Licence will it need to apply for one to be able to engage with new overseas workers it might wish to recruit?
- Is the organisation currently complying with its obligations to verify the right to work of employees? Such checks are likely to be even more significant in the future, as any failure in checking could not only lead to civil penalties but also to the loss of any Sponsor Licence under Tier 2.
- Is the employer likely to be able to recruit employees from outside the UK given the curbs and restrictions that will be placed upon the business?
- If that is unlikely what is the business going to do to recruit local talent in future years? Does it need now to consider training or apprenticeships?
What to do if you employ EU citizens currently
Many organisations will have EU citizens working for them already. The Government has introduced the EU Settlement Scheme for those who are currently living and working in the UK from the EU. Rules for the new settled status have been set out and the application process is at a pilot stage.
As presently set out, those who obtain EU Settled Status or EU Pre-Settled Status will be able to continue living in the UK after 31 December 2020. The Scheme is fully open from 31 March 2019. Those living in the UK on 31 December 2020 have until 30 June 2021 to apply.
Those who have already been in the UK for 5 years at the date of applying will receive EU Settled Status and can then remain in the UK indefinitely. Those who have less than 5 years’ residence in the UK at the time of applying will receive EU Pre-Settled Status and can remain in the UK for a further 5 years, which will allow their residence to become permanent.
Permanent Residence Documents will no longer be valid after 31 December 2020.
The EU Settled/Pre-Settled Status route is also available, subject to conditions for those who are not EU nationals but whose rights derive from their relationship to an EU citizen.
What will happen with Irish nationals?
It is expected that, even in the event of a “no deal” Brexit, Irish citizens will continue to be able to work in the United Kingdom without registration or any other restrictions under the “Common Travel Area” which applies between Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
What will happen with nationals of Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland?
No special plans have yet been set out for nationals of non-EU states who currently have rights because of EEA membership or associated treaties. This primarily affects nationals of Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland. It is anticipated that they will eventually be covered by the same transitional arrangements as EU nationals.
If you have any questions regarding this article or wish to seek legal advice on the possible impact of Brexit on your business then please contact Barry Stanton or call us on +44 (0)118 959 7711.
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.