Latest Employer Updates of the EU Settlement Scheme
The final countdown has started!
Now the UK is leaving the European Union, one of the significant effects of this is the freedom of movement of people between European Union states and the UK.
The scheme allows "EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK before the end of the transition period and their eligible family members, the opportunity to protect their residence in the UK after the transition period has ended."
Wednesday 30th June 2021 is the final cut-off point for someone to guarantee a "settled status" for themselves, and their family so, if becoming a settled UK resident is something they want, the government are urging people to get the process started as soon as possible.
The advantages of having settled status include being able to live and work in the UK, as well as being able to study, use the NHS, claim benefits and rent a house. Those who apply, risk becoming unlawfully present and will lose the rights they had before.
So, what does this mean for employers?
If a proportion of your workers are EU citizens then you may want to communicate with them about the EU Settlement Scheme, after all, they make a valuable contribution, and the deadline is for applications is a serious one.
To help the process, the UK government have set out some guidelines as to what employer’s obligations are, and you can find them in full here, but the key points are:
- There is no legal obligation for employers to discuss the EU Settlement scheme with workers.
- It is the responsibility of the individual to make an application to the EU Settlement Scheme.
- You have a duty not to discriminate against EU citizens in light of the UK’s decision to leave
- the EU as both a prospective and current employer.
- You should not interpret information on the EU Settlement Scheme provided by the government
- and you must be careful not to provide immigration advice for your employees unless you are
- qualified to do so.
- EU citizens must be resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. The deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021.
- From 1 January 2021, the UK will introduce a points-based immigration system. You will need to be a licensed sponsor to hire eligible employees from outside the UK. This will affect anyone you want to hire from outside the UK, excluding Irish citizens, and you can find out more here.
Fortunately, there is an Employers Toolkit online that provides leaflets, factsheets, letter templates, translated materials and more, so if you haven’t got started yet, these will help you get the message communicated without upsetting any of the obligations above.
What can employers do to prepare?
Understand The New Right To Work Checks
Until 30th June, candidates can prove their right to work using their passport, national identity card, biometric residence card or their digital status under the EU Settlement Scheme. After 30th June, only the settlement status will be legal for right to work checks and there is a simple way for candidates to share their status with a prospective employer using the Home Office’s share code generator.
Have A Plan Of Action Prepared
A report by the York University/Economic and Social Research Council says there is a “considerable cause for concern” regarding the amount of EEA+ nationals who seem unaware of the scheme and their responsibility to meet the deadline. The study notes that a “significant minority of EEA+ nationals will fail to register by the deadline. If they do not qualify as having a good reason for missing the deadline, they automatically and irreversibly lose their right to reside.”
For employers, this means checking ahead of time how many workers they could potentially be losing on 1st July 2021 and what safeguarding measures they can implement for their business to keep it operational. For example, some companies can register to become an official Home Office sponsor of skilled workers and go down the route of the Points Based System immigration system. Whatever option you choose, you’ll need as much time to prepare as possible so do not wait until July to start looking into it.
Communicate The Right Messages
Although the guidance is very clear that employers shouldn’t be putting pressure on their EU workers, to declare whether they will or will not apply for settled status, it is important to keep your workers updated on their options and the deadline.
Don’t be over-cautious about the topic as it’s clear that the information isn’t getting to the people who need it the most. Updating your employees by sending emails, providing leaflets, holding meetings, acknowledging language barriers and providing support will help get the word out without you needing to directly ask if people have applied or not. Being proactive and open about the situation clearly communicates your desire to help your workers and will make a difference to the number of them who make a decision before the deadline. After all, it will be heartbreaking to turn people away from work if they haven’t got settled status on 1st July.
At the time of writing, there are currently 21 days left to apply for settled status and with a massive shortage of workers because of the pandemic, it is vital to prepare a plan of action and get the message out to your workers.