With the UK set to potentially sever its ties with the European Union in just over a week’s time on March 29th, major changes are set to ripple through the UK workforce.
While the unpredictability of the UK economy post-Brexit still looms large, one thing that is certain is the changing of the law around EU citizens working in Britain and Northern Ireland. Being rolled out the day after the UK’s potential withdrawal from the EU on March 30th, the EU Settlement Scheme will apply to all EU citizens currently working in the UK, who will have until June 2021 to enrol on the scheme or face being deported.
The Government has reached an agreement with the non-EU European nations of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, meaning nationals of these countries can also apply to the scheme. Therefore, it is essential for employers and managers to be fully competent in understanding the scheme and supporting and assisting those in which the scheme applies to. Ultimately, the scheme enables EU citizens to continue living, working and studying in the UK after December 30th, 2020 – the deadline for applying if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, while also continuing to have access to public services such as healthcare and schools, public funds and British citizenship.
No matter whether a company is a global enterprise or a SME, the new scheme will affect every business on UK soil and it is down to employers to act on relaying the information to their workforce as soon as possible to give them ample time to apply. Employees need to sign up to the scheme if they are an EU citizen or a non-EU family member of an EU citizen; this includes those with a UK permanent residence document. However, if an employee has indefinite leave to remain or enter the UK, or is an Irish citizen, they are not required to apply, although they can do if they so wish.
In addition, if an EU citizen has been a resident in the UK for more than five continuous years, they will be eligible for settled status, while those who have lived and worked in the UK for less than five continuous years will be eligible for pre-settled status. Employees who need to sign up to the scheme can do so online, where they will be required to fill out an application with three key parts; identity, residence in the UK, and criminality.
To successfully complete the application, EU citizens must provide a valid biometric passport or biometric national security card, and while this can be done digitally on the ‘EU Exit: ID Document Check app’ on all Android devices, EU citizens can alternatively send their identity document to the Home Office in the post. Providing a National Insurance Number is sufficient for proving residency in the UK and can efficiently determine whether an employee is eligible for settled or pre-settled status. In cases where evidence cannot be proven with a National Security Number, the Government may require additional evidence, some of which can be found by visiting GOV.UK.
If employees are successful in their application, they will be sent digital proof of either settled status or pre-settled status. Settled status will enable the employee to indefinite leave to remain or enter, meaning there will be no time limit on how long they can stay in the UK, and subject to approval by Parliament, they should be able to spend up to five years in a row working outside the UK without losing their settled status.
Pre-settled status will mean the employee can stay in the UK for a period of five years, before being eligible for settled status. All employees signed up to the scheme will have their status stored electronically by the Home Office and will be able to use it as proof when required to by employers. Although, it is important to note that any EU citizen can still use their passport or national identity card as proof of their rights to work in the UK until June 30th, 2021.
Overall, employers should begin familiarising themselves with the EU Settlement Scheme if they have employees to whom the scheme concerns, in order to make applying for the application as straightforward as possible and to cause minimal distribution to the business during the process.
Employers and managers can visit www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families for more information on the scheme.
Interested in immigration for recruiters? We recommend the Immigration for Recruiters: Right to Work in the UK training day.
Kirsten Cluer is the HR Consultant and owner of Cluer HR. She has more than 15 years of experience in the field and has Fellow membership of the CIPD.
Cluer HR supports businesses in Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds. The company takes a professional, pragmatic, but also very 'human' approach to human resources, taking the time to understand and solve issues swiftly, sensitively and efficiently.