Brexit and the EU Settlement Scheme – what does this mean in the workplace?

Much is unknown about what will happen after Brexit. In this blog Darci Vivian, HR Advisor at Club Insure Risk Management, talks about what we are pretty certain won’t change and also the all-important EU Settlement Scheme. This is relevant for anyone who currently employs workers from within the EU. What should you do if you’re planning on employing new workers after Brexit?

Brexit and its impact on the workplace

The UK made the decision to leave the EU. But the uncertainty of when and how the UK are going to leave has left employers raising questions on what this will mean for them and how they can prepare.

What has been made clear is the right of free movement for UK nationals and EEA nationals coming to an end. Eventually a new skills-based migration system will be coming into place. This will particularly affect industries that employ a high percentage of EU nationals, such as retail and hospitality. Leaving the EU may impact the workplace in further ways such as:

  • using any services and goods provided by other members of the EU
  • supply chain arrangements
  • haulage and borders arrangements
  • employing EU residents.

Specific changes the workplace will experience will depend on how the UK leaves the EU and what type of relationship remains. 

Many employment laws in the UK do not stem from the EU, so Brexit will have no impact on these. These include laws such as rights to national minimum wage, rights to request flexible working and rights to statutory redundancy.

Some UK employment laws covering areas such as TUPE and annual leave currently stem from EU directives and have been written into UK law under the provisions of the EU Withdrawal Act. Therefore, there will be no immediate changes on the day the UK leaves the EU affecting current employment law. Any future changes regarding these areas will be decided by the UK government and Parliament.

What is the EU Settlement Scheme

In a recent article, Personnel Today said: “Government statistics show that more than 1.8 million applications have been received for the EU Settlement Scheme, and 1.5 million of these have been granted status up to the end of September 2019.”

The EU Settlement Scheme has been introduced because after Brexit the UK will no longer be an EU country. The scheme processes the applications of EU citizens who currently live in the UK. This enables them to remain in the UK with either pre-settled or settled status. Pre-settled status will usually apply to EU citizens who do not have five years of continuous residency at the time of applying. Those who have been given pre-settled status can then apply for settled status once they have five years of continuous residency. EU citizens will usually get settled status if they have lived in the UK for five years continuously.

Whilst there is no legal requirement for employers to communicate the EU Settlement Scheme, it may be in the employers’ best interest to provide communication to EU staff considering their valuable contribution to many workplaces.

Will discrimination claims rise thanks to the EU Settlement Scheme?

Employers must be mindful not to discriminate against EU citizens during the EU Settlement Scheme process. Discrimination claims could arise in the event of job role promotions, offers of employment, or during a redundancy consultation period. If EU employees believe they have been treated less favourably due to the employer knowing their settlement status, they could make a claim. Employers should not directly ask EU employees of their settlement status. To remain compliant, the current ‘right to work’ checks apply until the end of 2020.

EU citizens who move to the UK following Brexit will have to apply for a temporary UK immigration status. This will be valid for three years from its granted date. From January 2021, EU citizens will be given a digital status which is going to be needed for right to work checks.

Employers should ensure relevant recruitment policies and processes are compliant with the correct ‘right to work’ checks. Employers should not discriminate against EU citizens.

Do you have any queries regarding the above, or any other health & safety or HR matters? Please feel free to contact the Club Insure Risk Management team for help and guidance.