The biggest issue facing UK employers since the announcement that the majority of the UK voted to leave the EU is how we deal with non UK nationals including new recruits and those who are currently employed in the UK labour market.
The Current Position
Currently, EU nationals are initially able to move to the UK for a three months where they will then be expected to obtain work, undertake self employed activities or be self sufficient. In some cases they may also be job seekers or students.
Apart from Croatian nationals, these EU nationals will have complete access to the UK jobs and after five years can then automatically qualify for permanent British residence.
What will happen now?
The current position is that the normal rules are still going to apply in relation to any recruitment processes. It is important to remember that until the point of exit from the EU, which may not happen for quite some time, there will still be free movement of people around the EU, including the UK. Unfortunately, at this moment we don’t know what is going to happen at the point of exit.
What could the UK’s future immigration policy look like?
Currently, non EEA nationals can only work in the UK using the points based system where they will have to have a sponsor, are going to perform a professional or managerial role or are able to come to the UK to work under the Tier 2 category which means that in most cases they will only be able to be considered for a post if there is no British national suitable and where the post has to be advertised first and in accordance with strict requirements. Should this system be applied post exit, this will mean that no British national will be able to undertake low skilled positions.
Low Skilled Workers
UK employers will become concerned if the points based system is introduced post exit as this will mean that there could be insufficient workers to undertake low skilled roles which are required in agriculture, hospitality, catering and the health care sectors. Past activity has shown that the UK has been unable to recruit low skilled workers into these types of industries in certain low skilled occupations. As this was the case back then, this may result in the points based system being extended to fill this gap or a specific scheme being intruded to address this.
What can you do to safeguard your workforce?
Employers should encourage EEA national workers and their families who have been in the UK for the last five years to consider applying for permanent residency. It is also advisable to suggest to these staff that they should seek advice as to what to do to ensure that they are in the best possible position to remain in the UK post exit
What should you do as an employer?
There is a lot of uncertainty around Brexit which is making it difficult for employers to act decisively. Employers should try to think ahead and look at how many EEA national they currently employ or need to deliver their services and to review their current recruitment practices so that they are prepared as much as possible for the post Brexit era. In addition, in order to be a sponsor fort the points based system employers would need a sponsorship licence and therefore it may be useful to start looking into this in preparation for the future.