The impact of Brexit is beginning to be felt by employers. Initial anecdotal evidence about the impact of Brexit leading to a drop in EU applicants applying for and remaining in roles is now beginning to be backed up by statistics in some sectors. The urge for employers is to offer reassurance and support for EU employees to ensure that they retain skilled employees and avoid a higher turnover of staff. Some employers are also considering how to recruit more British staff. However, employers must be sure that they don’t unintentionally discriminate in carrying out their plans for Brexit.
Many EU staff may want to apply for a residence card or UK citizenship over the coming years and may need assistance from their employer to do so, such as proof of employment and payment of taxes. Any assistance given to EU staff must also be provided to non-EU who might also need to apply for similar documents, such as highly skilled migrant visas.
In preparation for possible changes, organisations may want to audit their workforce to find out how many EU staff they have and what positions they hold. Any audit and request for information needs to be carried out sensitively and must not single out EU workers, for example, requesting only EU workers to prove that they have a residence card or proof of the right to remain.
Some employers are considering ways of recruiting more British staff, for vacation placements or work experience opportunities for school and college leavers. As long as the schemes don’t exclude EU citizens from participating they are lawful, but an employer cannot turn down an EU citizen from taking part on the basis that the aim is to increase recruitment of British citizens.
As 30 March 2019 approaches, employers may not have any clear idea of future immigration arrangements until shortly before the UK actually leaves the EU and there may be a transitional phase. Thereafter, it is key that we have a wide-ranging and workable migration policy, allowing skilled workers to enter the UK to work freely, and this should not be subject to a cap in number. The UK needs to continue to welcome skilled workers to provide services to our industry, that we would not otherwise be able to provide. A plan needs to be put in place, to welcome these skills.
Until the UK leaves the EU and probably after, EU employees cannot receive more favourable or less favourable treatment.