Brexit – the latest position on EU workers’ rights

May 31, 2018

With Brexit less than a year away, Alan Kennedy from Womble Bond Dickinson provides a summary of the latest position on EU workers’ rights and what employers should do now to prepare for the UK’s departure from Europe

On December 8, the UK Government reached an agreement with Europe on EU citizens’ rights. This was updated on March 19,2018 following agreement on the implementation period. They include:

* EU citizens who, by December 31, 2020, have been continuously and lawfully living in the UK for five years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’. That means they will be free to live in the UK, have access to public funds and services and go on to apply for British citizenship (once they are eligible to do so).

* EU citizens who arrive by December 31, 2020 but have not been living in the UK lawfully for five years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the five-year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.

* Family members who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK by December 31, 2020, will also be able to apply for settled status, usually after five years in the UK.

* Close family members (ie spouses, civil and unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren, and dependent parents and grandparents) will be able to join EU citizens after the UK leaves the EU, where the relationship existed on December 31, 2020.

The UK Government has confirmed that there will be an online application process, which will be ‘streamlined, user-friendly and

quick to use’ and is likely to go live later this year. EU citizens will be required to provide an identity document and a photograph, and will be required to declare any criminal convictions. They will also be required to pay an application fee (approximately £75) and will have until June 30, 2021, to apply for the relevant residence documentation.

After December 31, 2020

The Government has not provided any clarity on EU citizens’ rights after 31 December 31, 2020.

It was intended that the Government would issue an Immigration White Paper last summer, which would set out its proposals for post-Brexit immigration and would include key details of the new immigration policy. However, this is now unlikely to be published before October this year. The delay has attracted criticism and is, understandably, creating anxiety for EU nationals and uncertainty for UK businesses, and is preventing proper planning and recruitment.

Key action points for employers

To be prepared for Brexit we would suggest that the following steps are carried out by employers:

  • Conduct an audit on your current workforce and assess the potential impact of Brexit.
  • Encourage EU employees with at least five years’ residence to apply for permanent residence now.
  • Reassure your EU employees that their rights will be protected (as far as you can).
  • Consider any additional costs as a result of Brexit, such as a potential increase to salaries to address any skills and/or labour shortages within the business and/or any increased costs to upskill and train the current workforce.
  • Review and update your harassment and anti-bullying policies and ensure that managers are fully trained on those policies.
  • Put together a Brexit team to carry out the above steps, to deal with any queries from EU employees regarding their status and to assist with applications once the online application process goes live later this year.

Womble Bond Dickinson

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