10 March 2020

Immigration: what steps should firms be taking now to protect and keep their valued EU workforce?

Oliver Tasker Partner & Head of Employment

If you want to keep your EU workers – then make sure you act now, advises our Immigration expert. Businesses reliant on EU nationals should act fast to ensure their valuable employees are securing UK residence before January 2021, advises our specialist immigration lawyer.

As we move into the spring of this new decade, the clock is ticking for EU nationals to complete the process of acquiring UK residence, referring to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

As has been well-reported, our exit from the EU will see the implementation of a new points-based immigration system, from January 1, 2021. Ending the free movement and seeing EU and non-EU nationals being treated equally, this will be used to consider whether a worker, from either inside or outside the EU, can work here.

How points are allocated

The strict requirements will limit entry to skilled workers. Applicants will be awarded points for, amongst other things, receiving a salary of at least £25,600 and demonstrating they can speak English to a required level. Employers wishing to sponsor migrant workers will be required to obtain a UK Sponsor Licence and will be required to meet an Immigration Skills Surcharge fee, per sponsored worker.

While there are other requirements that must be met when the revamped points-based system comes in, it is perhaps the salary level entry requirement that will concern employers the most – again it is well reported that EU nationals have filled thousands of lower-salaried jobs across the UK.

Act fast to safeguard your business

If you're running a business that could be affected, my advice is to act fast in order to limit any damage the departure of EU nationals may bring to your business. Conduct an audit of the current EU nationals working for you and review your existing HR records.

In doing so, you should identify those employees who are potentially going to have to leave the UK at the end of the current transition period. You should make them aware of the EUSS and inform them if they are in the UK by December 31, 2020, they have until June 30, 2021 to apply.

Those EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for less than five-years will be granted Pre-Settled Status and those who have been resident for five-years or more will be granted Settled Status. Successfully applying to the EUSS will ensure their right to live and work in the UK, and businesses will not lose their key EU staff when the new structure comes into place. If they do not follow this process and they do not fit the new points criteria, they will have no right to work in the UK.

Checks and balances

While securing your EU workforce is far and above the most important issue to tackle prior to the introduction of the new points-based system, keeping your audits up-to-date will ensure you have the correct checks and balances in place – remembering that businesses will face a potential £20,000 fine for employing any illegal workers.

For more on this and any other aspect of immigration law, please contact our specialist immigration lawyer Oliver Tasker.

Oliver Tasker, Wilkin Chapman LLP
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