The major issue currently impacting UK-based companies with employees based in Europe is the impact of Brexit, still scheduled for 31 January 2020 although the possibility of extension cannot be ruled out.
Were Brexit to happen, the UK will no longer be signed up to the ‘Four Freedoms’ of the Single Market, being the Free Movement of Goods, Services, Labour and Capital. Companies that provide services cross-border may be hampered, typically if they operate in industries where regulations apply.
Of more importance to you is the impact of Free Movement of Labour from Brexit date. Transitional provisions may apply, but there is uncertainty of how those would work.
Were the UK to exit the EU, the default position would be that working in another country may require a work permit, visa, and potentially a residency permit. Those rules would vary country by country. However, many countries are planning a simplified regime to ensure a relatively smooth transition.
Our recommendations are as follows:
Inventory of all EU nationals working in the UK
Once you know which of your UK-based employees are potentially impacted, you can protect yourself from your employer obligations to ensure the employees have the Right To Work.
You should already be conducting Right To Work checks as part of your hiring and onboarding.
Ideally your HR system should be able to extract a report on the nationalities and Right To Work status’, so you would not need to incur any cost in finding this out.
However, once you have that list of employees, we can look through it with you and work out what steps are required.
It is important that spouses and dependents are also identified. An EU national with a UK spouse will have a potentially simpler route, whereas a non-EU spouse may complicate things more.
Regularisation of all EU nationals in the UK
The first step is likely to be ensuring that you can demonstrate that they continue to retain the Right To Work after 31 January. The UK government has set up a scheme whereby EU nationals can register online to demonstrate their status.
Although individuals can handle this themselves, employers can assist their employees to ensure they have lawful residence and will continue to have a legal duty after 31st October to prove that all employees have a right to work in the UK.
One way to do this is through our EU Residency Workshop. One of our immigration consultants attend your offices and assist your employees with making the most appropriate application on the day. We can also include an employee briefing session as part of the workshop.
We would recommend setting up a Workshop Session to ensure that as many employees as possible are registered in advance of 31st October. This would entail having our consultant in your office with a room available to help the employees with their application, either on an appointment or drop-in basis.
Online applications typically take 20-30 minutes to complete, so whether this is a half- or full-day depends on your numbers.
Inventory of all UK nationals working in the EU
In the same way, it is recommended that all UK nationals working abroad are identified, along with details of the country they are working in, and how long they have been there.
That will enable prompt action to be taken as soon as required to regularise their position in their Host Countries, to prevent illegal working and the related problems it may create for you or for your customers.
EU Immigration services for UK Nationals post-Brexit
Once the individual country rules are known post-Brexit, Santa Fe’s Immigration specialists in each of the countries can assist you and your employees in obtaining the relevant work permits, visas, and residency permits for your UK nationals in those countries.
If they typically work at Client sites, this may require involvement and liaison with HR in those Client organisations, to ensure that any documentation required from their side is obtained, and that the correct entity applies.
Once Brexit has happened, there may be an impact on your future business model. There may also be opportunities presented from this.
Also, Business Travel rules may change. Those who did not need a visa for business trips before may now need them, in either direction. The opportunity should be taken to review business travel tracking processes.
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