Knowledge Hub | Articles

13 March 2017

Brexit: Reassuring and retaining your international workforce

We are navigating unchartered territory since the Vote Leave camp won the referendum in June 2016. Since then, business groups have been seeking clarity around how its members will be affected, particularly about the status of international employees working in the UK. Despite constant hypotheses from the media and learning of the government’s priorities in a Brexit white paper in February, there will be no further clarity until negotiations begin.

And that’s the catch. Although many EU leaders favour such an agreement which protects EU nationals in the UK and British expats in the EU, Theresa May has said that there were couple who do not – so there is a distinct possibility that the rules for migrant workers in the UK will be subject to a host of changes until the negotiations between the UK and EU conclude in two years' time.

Despite the uncertainty about the future and an inclination by some to ‘wait and see’, there are steps that companies can take to retain and reassure their international workforce, allowing for future planning and the growth of their business.

In anticipation of an overhaul of the UK's immigration system, it is best to get ahead of the surge of applications from a large number of the 2.5 million plus EU nationals living in the UK. Already, according to the Home Office, it will take around six months (which we believe to be underestimating the true timeframe) to obtain confirmation from the Home Office on the immigration status of international, and particularly EU, workers and this is likely to take a lot longer if they have to deal with a surge in the number of applications. Employers and their employees should therefore consider the options available to them to formalise immigration status.

If your employees are temporary UK residents and are non-EU citizens, sponsors could consider an application for an ‘indefinite leave to remain’. And if your employee is an EU national, it may be prudent to consider Permanent Residency for them. It must be noted that the application process is hugely complex and takes a large chunk of time and resources particularly if employers have a large number of international workers. For example, with non-EU nationals not all visas attract the right to indefinite leave to remain and this needs to be checked at the outset.

In the case of Permanent Residency application, for every EU national who chooses to apply, there is an 80 page application form backed up by lengthy guidance notes which, coupled with the need to gather various documentation, takes on average around two days to complete. So if a company has 15 EU employees, it could take up to a month to submit all their applications.

B P Collins' business immigration team can take the headache away by completing the application for you or reviewing before it is submitted as it is absolutely vital all information is accurate. Otherwise, if a key document is not submitted, the application will be unsuccessful, adding further uncertainty.

Successful businesses have to adapt constantly to meet customer demand, to trade in increasingly competitive marketplaces, address skills shortages or fluctuating economies. The likely changes to immigration rules is the next big challenge looming and we can help you with that challenge. By helping to protect your international workforce, you can reassure your staff and enable you and your team to concentrate on the opportunities and challenges that Brexit may bring.

Chris Brazier, business immigration specialist, will be hosting a free workshop on retaining your international workforce. For more information, visit the event page.

To speak with the business immigration team, call 01753 279029 or email employmentlaw@bpcollins.co.uk.

Stay in touch

Phone: +44 (0) 1753 889995

Email: enquiries@bpcollins.co.uk

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