Businesses across the
UK must prepare for workforce challenges post-Brexit and allow their UK staff
the ability to continue working in the EU
Many UK businesses are still heavily reliant on migrant workers from the EU. With post-Brexit negotiations still taking place, what are the challenges businesses will face with EU employees? Immigration lawyer Sohan Sidhu from Ellisons Solicitors has broken down the fundamental points for businesses in regards to the post-Brexit immigration laws and hiring EU workers.
EU nationals working in the UK as of December 31st this year and their families will have the right to remain in the UK as long as they register for settled or pre-settled status in the “EU Settlement Scheme” by June 30 2021. From January 1 onwards next year, after the transition period ends, there will no longer be free movement between the UK and the EU. The UK will adopt a new “points-based” immigration system that will make hiring lower-skilled workers more difficult for businesses due to fewer options available.
“Any EU nationals already living and working in the UK as at 31 December 2020 should follow the procedure above,” Mr Sidhu said. “From 1 January 2021, there will be a new unified immigration system which will apply to all individuals, irrespective of their nationality. There will be fewer options available to EU nationals looking to undertake lower-skilled work in the UK. From 1 January 2021, there will be an end to Free Movement between the EEA and the UK and vice versa. There will be a new UK points-based system and in general, there will be no low skilled or temporary work route. There is also a major concern in several business sectors as to how positions will be filled e.g. those in the care, hospitality and construction industries.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced the new points-based immigration system, but as Brexit negotiations continue to drag on, the changes have not been formally introduced and a clear-cut immigration system has yet to be set in stone. The delays could jeopardise UK businesses as they will not be given enough time to change their hiring process and prepare themselves for the new system.
“Whilst the Home Secretary has announced changes, they have yet to be formally introduced. There is uncertainty as to what the final immigration system will look like from 1 January 2021,” Mr Sidhu added. “The longer the Government delays announcing the changes and what the new immigration system will look like, the less time UK businesses will have to adapt their working and hiring practices and make themselves ready for the new system.”
Businesses looking to sponsor an EU migrant should apply for a Home Office Sponsor Licence if they don’t have one, as there will likely be a huge spike in applicants next year which could delay their hiring process even more. The skills threshold for sponsoring Tier 2 migrants in the UK will also be lowered, widening the pool of migrants that can seek these sponsors.
“Currently, the skills threshold to sponsor Tier 2 migrants into the UK for the purpose of employment is Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) level 6,” Mr Sidhu said. “This is essentially graduate-level jobs. From 1 January 2021, the skills threshold will be lowed to RQF level 3 which is essentially A level or equivalent. This is a significant change and will potentially widen the number of migrants which businesses can seek to sponsor to work in the UK. Any business looking to sponsor a migrant, In the UK as a Tier 2 sponsored employee will need to own a Home Office Sponsor Licence. Any business which is not currently in possession of such a licence should consider applying for one now as it’s likely to be a significant rush in applications from next year, which may delay decision making on the part of the Home Office and consequently negatively impact employing businesses.”
Under the new points-based system, the UK will ultimately be given full control of who comes over to the country in the aim to build a “high-skill” and “high-wage” economy. Workers will have to reach a minimum of 70 points to be able to work in the UK. In addition, employers will need to pay higher Home Office application fees which could potentially deter many businesses from hiring workers in lower paid jobs such as in the care and hospitality industries. Thousands of people have signed
“The proposed new points-based system will be the category which most employers will utilise in order to be able to employ workers in the UK,” Mr Sidhu added. “A minimum of 70 points will be required by each proposed worker in order to qualify under the system and there will be a number of characteristics which can be tradable thus leading to the grant of points. Whilst the skills threshold will be reduced, employers and employees will need to pay significant Home Office application fees and these may act as a deterrent for employers, certainly in lower pay sectors such as the care and hospitality industries.”
Employers should begin early preparations for the mass changes about to take place, arming their businesses with the right tools and knowledge for smooth sailing once the Brexit transition period is over and ensure their company stays two steps ahead.