As an employer, you may have questions about what Brexit means for you. One of the key queries facing businesses is the uncertainty over recruiting and retaining staff, especially if you employ staff from the European Union (EU). Employers can take a number of practical steps and find support to prepare for the UK leaving the EU.
Which employees will Brexit affect?
Identify who, in your business, may be affected by the UK leaving the EU, such as:
- workers from other EU countries
- workers that commute from the Republic of Ireland to work in your business
- workers that are UK nationals but have family members from another EU country - eg a spouse or partner
- students from another EU country working in your business - eg completing a scholarship or student placement
There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK while the UK remains in the EU. EU citizens' rights in the UK.
Read about the status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know.
Settled status for EU citizens and their families
The UK Government has developed a scheme for EU citizens living in the UK to apply for settled status for themselves and their family. Getting settled status means you can continue to live and work in the UK for as long as you like. You will not need to apply if you’re an Irish citizen or have indefinite leave to remain, but your family members from outside the UK and Ireland will.
No action needs to be taken at the moment. The settled status scheme will open fully by March 2019 and the deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021. However, you can access the EU Settlement Scheme: employer toolkit that contains relevant materials for you and your employees, including a practical communications plan. These can be downloaded and used before the scheme goes live.
Read more about settled status for EU citizens and their families including eligibility criteria and documents you'll need to apply.
If you meet certain eligibility criteria, you may be able to apply now to the EU Settlement Scheme public test phase that opened on 21 January 2019. Applications for the scheme will open fully by 30 March 2019. Read more about the EU Settlement Scheme public test phase: applicant eligibility.
The UK government confirms that if there is no deal the EU Settlement Scheme will continue to be implemented. However, there would be some changes, in particular, the scheme deadline being moved forward to 31 December 2020. See further details in the policy paper on citizens' rights in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Applying for skilled or unskilled-work visas
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be a new process for EU citizens arriving in the UK before 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021, a new skills-based immigration system will launch. For non-EU nationals, EU Exit will not affect the application process for work visas.
How can employers plan for Brexit?
- Scenario plan by looking at example case studies: EU citizens’ rights in the UK.
- Keep updated on Brexit developments including:
- The latest EU exit guidance on areas that include movement of people, settled status and qualifications. You can sign up to receive email alerts when new information is published.
- Find out what your business may need to do to prepare for the UK leaving the EU, what’s changing in your industry and information on specific rules and regulations.
- Status of EU nationals in the UK by signing up for Home Office email alerts.
- Speak to your employees about the challenges of Brexit. Let them know you are aware of the issues and are looking at ways to address them. If employees know they are valued and supported, this will help increase their loyalty to you. This could be important should employers in their home country offer them employment. Build effective relationships with your employees.
- Retain skills - to avoid losing vital skills and knowledge if a staff member leaves, you may want to consider cross-skilling employees so that key skills and business knowledge are spread throughout your workforce. Sharing knowledge in your business.
- Inform employees - provide your employees with support and guidance on:
- Applying for UK residence for EU citizens.
- Applying for dual citizenship or dual nationality - ie you can be a British citizen and a citizen of another country. However, you should note that some countries don’t allow dual citizenship so employees should check with their embassy in the UK to see if their home country allows dual citizenship.
- How to register as a British citizen.
- How to become a British citizen through naturalisation.
(It can take up to six months to process the above applications.)
- EU Settlement Scheme: employer toolkit equips employers with the right tools and information to support EU citizens and their families on the EU Settlement Scheme.
- Avoid discrimination - as an employer, it is unlawful to discriminate and any support you offer must be made available to all employees in your business whether they are UK citizens, EU nationals or from outside the EU. Prevent discrimination and value diversity.
- Tools to help employers - InterTradeIreland’s Brexit Planning Interactive Guide can help with employment issues such as recruitment, cross-border commuters, rights to permanent work and seasonal workers.
- Further guidance on trade support for Brexit.
Consultations offer an opportunity to comment on policy and issues that relate to your business. Find Brexit consultations from government departments: