As we officially embark on a new relationship with the European Union (EU), many businesses will face significant changes to operations. In particular, alterations to the rules on immigration and employment will impact workforces this year and beyond.
Many businesses employ staff from the EU, either on a seasonal or permanent basis, and the end of the transition period represented a significant shift in our relationship with the EU. As such, changes to employment law, workers’ rights and immigration could have a large impact on your business operations for many years ahead.
To make sure you’re on top of these changes and are able to keep your staff and business running smoothly, there are a number of steps you can take today.
Three things you can do to prepare your staff and business for changes to employment and immigration rules
(1) Understand your requirements as an employer and the rights of your employees
There are numerous implications of the end of the transition period for businesses’ workforces and understanding the key elements of these is crucial to successfully continuing your operations through 2021 and beyond.
Although employment rights remain largely the same since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, getting up to speed on your requirements as an employer is central to ensuring the smooth running of your business. As well as standard risk assessments and health and safety requirements, you will continue to be responsible for things like paid holiday, statutory sick pay and National Insurance deductions, as these are not contingent on EU law. However, the specifics of these will vary depending on the employment contract type – for example, part-time, full-time or temporary work.
In addition to understanding your rights as an employer, it’s important to be up to date on your employees’ rights, both for UK nationals and EU citizens. For EU citizens specifically, the situation changed at the end of the transition period. The UK government confirmed that EU nationals will no longer have the automatic right to work in the UK and will have to apply for Settled Status.
- The UK government’s overview of contract types and employer responsibilities offers a good starting point
- Citizen’s Advice has a summary of employer obligations and employee entitlements
- The CIPD’s Brexit Hub helps with all transition period questions and offers useful information on employment law and rights
- Law firms Bevan Brittan and Charles Russell Speechlys have also published in-depth looks at changes to employment rights post-Brexit and the impact on workforces
(2) Plan for changes to your recruitment process and workforce
While the end of the transition period may not make a big difference to your recruitment process, it’s worth being aware of the extra documentation required when employing EU nationals post-Brexit. EU citizens will be required to have Settled Status or, if your employees are classified as skilled workers, you will need to apply as an approved sponsor in order to support their applications.
If your company has high seasonal demand or regularly employs temporary or seasonal staff from the EU, we recommend carefully examining your staffing needs. The government extended the trial of the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme to facilitate short-term work, expanding the quota to 30,000 places.
However, due to these changes, there may still be a decrease in the availability of seasonal staff. As such, it’s important to plan for any increases in demand well in advance to ensure any seasonal or short-term staffing needs are met and that you are well set up to deal with any additional paperwork when recruiting EU nationals.
- The government offers the best starting points on
- Applying for settled status
- More information on the UK’s new points-based immigration system, together with applications to become an approved sponsor
- The Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme
- The Law Society has published a useful overview of changes to immigration for workers and employers in the UK
(3) Discuss changes and plans with your staff
The end of the transition period will not only have impacted your business, but also the roles and responsibilities of your employees. Therefore, it’s crucial to communicate with your staff regarding these changes, be it an increase or decrease in workload; alterations to employment status; or a shift in operations affecting their work. It’s important to be open and honest with your staff about these changes, and ensure all parties understand any impact on contracts, right to work, or possible redundancies.
More than the practicalities of any changes, ensuring your staff are brought along on the journey and understand why the operations and processes are shifting is crucial. Engaging employees in decisions and taking their feedback on board will help with the adoption of changes to the business and encouraging staff retention.
- The Institute of Employment has published a detailed guide of Brexit’s impact on the workplace, with links to resources on employee engagement, the impact on HR, and workforce planning from a number of business and academic groups