Posted by Richard Woodman, Partner
The EU Settlement Scheme has been extended – what can you do to help your workforce?
British firms are backing their EU workforces by offering to pay their application fees for the EU Settlement Scheme which is today being extended to all European workers living in the UK in its third and final testing phase.
How are employers helping their EU workforce?
Restaurant Carluccio said today that spending £100,000 on application fees for its EU staff was money well spent as it showed its commitment to its workers and generated goodwill for the future.
The restaurant joins pub chains, universities, airports and hospitals who have offered to pay the £65 Settlement Scheme charge for their EU employees. More than a third of Young & Co Brewery’s total workforce (1,800 people) are EU nationals. The brewery is providing financial help in addition to offering weekly sessions to help staff complete paperwork, and English language training.
Who is affected?
Those from the EU and their dependants who continue to live and work in the UK after Brexit must apply for settlement under the scheme which will be fully implemented by 30 March 2019. To qualify, EU workers must be living in the UK by the end of 2020. They have until 30 June 2021 to apply for settlement. Those who can demonstrate that they have been living in the UK for five years will obtain settled status, whilst those who cannot will be granted pre-settled status until they have lived in the UK for the requisite period when they can apply for settled status.
The Home Office says that it made over 27,000 decisions on settled status applications submitted during the phase 2 test phase between 1 November and 21 December 2018. All applications were accepted. 70% were granted settled status while the other 30% received “pre-settled status”.
The feedback so far from EU workers who have applied for settled status is that the process is simple and relatively swift despite some initial technical issues. However the real challenges for Home Office are how to get 3 million EU workers living in the UK to apply for settlement status in the next year and half and how will it process this amount of applications in the absence of recruiting hundreds of employees. Some are also concerned that the ‘simple’ process will be open to abuse by illegal immigrants posing as EU workers.
Given Brexit woes and the uncertainty it has caused, many firms have been going the extra mile to support EU staff by offering to pay settlement application fees, assisting with the paperwork, and providing English language lessons. Showing staff they are valued is good for morale but also good for business as staff will be more likely to stay loyal to employers who show they care particularly because the recruitment and retention of staff will be burning issues for businesses after Brexit.
In the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, the EU Settlement Scheme may also change. Whilst the Government has said it will remain open to those EU workers already living in the UK by 29 March 2019, it has not been clear in relation to EU workers coming to the UK after that date.
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