Much remains unclear about the future of the UK labour market following its formal exit from the EU, likely to be in March 2019 under the emerging Brexit timetable.
However the UK government’s position, set out in its formal White Paper on Brexit, as well as in numerous press statements, is that the UK will exit the single market at the same time as the EU. On this basis, businesses that operate in the UK must plan on the assumption there will be no freedom of movement for EEA nationals after Brexit.
Many questions remain; for example, whether EEA nationals will be expected to use the existing Points Based System routes, which until now have been the usual option for non-EEA nationals wishing to live or work in the UK, or whether there will be new procedures for them. What about EEA nationals already here? The UK government says they want to clarify the position early in the negotiations in line with agreeing the position for UK nationals living in Europe, but has refused to make unilateral guarantees.
What should employers do now?
Amidst these questions, businesses which rely to a significant extent on EEA nationals may find themselves struggling with effective workforce planning.
However there are steps businesses can take now to reduce uncertainty, both for their own planning purposes, and to reassure and retain valued employees.
Despite rumours to the contrary, the existing regulations for EEA nationals and their families are likely to stay in place until the UK actually exits the EU. Many EEA citizens have not made applications for permanent residence rights in the UK previously as there was no need. Now, many international companies are assisting EEA nationals in their workforce by supporting them in applications for Permanent Residence, which prove the individual’s right to live in the UK permanently, or residence certificates (proving the right of residence for five years).
Businesses might want to undertake strategic planning now to assess how they can continue to meet their work force requirements post Brexit. In some cases it will be clear that whatever the outcome of negotiations a Sponsor Licence application should be submitted to ensure companies have the capacity to recruit the right staff.
How we can help
UK government white paper on Brexit
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