12 April, 2019
In the latest development on Brexit, it has been agreed that the UK will now leave the EU on 31 October 2019, unless a further extension is agreed! However, there still remains a significant amount of uncertainty over what will happen to EEA citizens who are looking to live and work in the UK in the future.
Where your business relies on individuals coming to work here, whether for permanent positions or on temporary secondments from other company sites across Europe, you may be reflecting on how you source your workforce, but also how you reassure existing staff who are EEA citizens.
The current position communicated by the UK Government is that EEA citizens already within the UK will be able to continue living and working in the UK after Brexit. The government has confirmed that this will be the case even if there is "no deal" with the EU. EEA citizens can currently live and work freely in the UK. All resident citizens of EEA countries currently working and living in the UK who wish to continue to live and work in the UK, apart from Irish citizens, must register with UK Visas and Immigration for "settled status" if they have been in the UK for five years or more. Applicants with less than five years' residence must apply for "pre-settled status", allowing them to stay for up to five years until they can apply for settled status. All those already holding EEA Permanent Residence documents will still have to apply for settled status in the same way.
The Government have confirmed that settled status or pre-settled status applications will either need to be made by 31 June 2021, if an agreement is reached with the EU or 31 December 2020 if there is "no deal", although these dates may now be extended with the deal to Brexit.
Settled and pre-settled status applications are now open to all EU nationals and their families as part of a third pilot being trialled by the Government and currently costs £65. The Government has announced that the application will be free when settled status applications are fully opened by 30 March 2019 at the latest. Anyone applying at present and paying the fee will receive a full refund by the UK Government. The process will be a straightforward on-line application process.
Communicating to your staff
It is important, where you have members of your workforce who are EEA citizens to help them understand their position to ensure that you avoid their concerns and uncertainty impacting on your businesses operations.
It may be helpful for you to communicate to staff either through employee groups, a recognized TU official, through team meetings or in written communications to staff that the business is supporting them.
You may wish to inform them that over the past few months, you have reviewed the ongoing negotiations between the UK Government and the EU regarding Brexit to understand the impact that any final agreement will have on your workforce and, in particular, your EU National employees who live and work in the UK.
It will be helpful to reassure them that you know that the changes and uncertainty might cause some concern for them and their family members who are EEA nationals and also your team as a whole, who may have some general questions about the situation.
You could remind them that your workforce is your top priority and that you are committed to keeping them updated on any significant developments or announcements in relation to the current position.
In supporting your staff you can sign post them to further information about settled and pre-settled status and how to make an application on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status.
In the meantime, please feel free to get in touch with any questions or concerns you might have.