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How should UK employers prepare for Brexit?

5th Apr 17 7:55 am

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XpertHR has launched a new guide for UK employers on how to prepare for Brexit, after Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 on 29th March beginning the divorce proceedings.

The guide, which will be updated as negotiations between the UK and EU progress, focuses on how employers can prepare for potential changes to the right of free movement. It outlines the practical steps employers can take and suggests how they could support their European workforce in the UK.

Jo Stubbs, Head of Content at XpertHR Group, said: “The next two years will be challenging for employers, especially those that employ significant numbers of EEA citizens. Although no one has a crystal ball, employers can take measures to prepare for potential changes post-Brexit.

“They can audit their workforce to ensure they hold reliable data about which of their employees are EEA nationals in the UK or British nationals in the EEA. This will help them identify any particular areas of the business or job roles that are likely to be particularly affected by a change to the immigration rules, and start planning how to address any potential skills gaps or labour shortages. A review of policies and processes to identify those that may need to be amended post-Brexit can also be carried out now.”

There is still uncertainty about the ability of EEA nationals currently in the UK to continue to live and work in the UK in the future. The UK Government has said it will not guarantee the rights of those EEA nationals already living and working in the UK if the same is not guaranteed for British nationals in Europe.

Employers will, therefore, have to make an important strategic decision about whether to wait for clarification about future immigration rules or to act now to assist EEA employees to obtain evidence of their UK immigration position (potentially incurring unnecessary costs), with a view to enabling their organisation to retain these employees post-Brexit.

In summary, the essential steps for employers set out in the XpertHR guidance are to:

  1. Understand the current right of free movement for EEA nationals under the Free Movement Directive.
  2. Carry out an audit of the workforce to establish which employees are EEA nationals in the UK or British nationals in the EEA.
  3. Use employee data to assess the potential impact of Brexit on the workforce.
  4. Identify potential skills gaps and labour shortages and plan how to address these.
  5. Communicate with the workforce on the potential impact of Brexit and support available to employees.
  6. Understand the options for EEA workers to obtain evidence of their immigration status in the UK.
  7. Consider providing assistance with applications for registration certificatespermanent residence cards and/or naturalisation.
  8. Review policies and documents to identify those that may need to be amended as a result of Brexit.
  9. Prepare for HR involvement in strategic decisions on relocation.
  10. Consider whether or not to take part in lobbying on post-Brexit immigration and free movement policy.

[i] The EEA covers all the countries of the EU, as well as Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Swiss nationals have equivalent rights to those of EEA nationals.

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