While we are still besieged by Brexit uncertainty, the UK Government has indicated that free movement will end once we have left the European Union, which means there will be fewer candidates on the market, intensified by:
- The UK facing its highest employment rates since 1971
- A reduction in EU applicants applying and entering the UK workforce; post referendum, our business alone saw our percentage of EU hires for UK roles drop from 28% in 2016-17 to 18% in 2018/19
- Employees who would be ready for their next career move deciding to stay put due to economic uncertainty
To help employers remain alert to potential changes and sustain their ability to attract and retain people best suited to their business needs, we have created a checklist to help them prepare their workforce for Brexit.
1. UNDERTAKE A FULL WORKFORCE REVIEW - IDENTIFY VULNERABILITIES, GAPS IN SKILLS AND POTENTIAL LOSSES DUE TO VISA RESTRICTIONS
The scarcity of available skills and labour, potentially exacerbated by further contractions post-Brexit once free movement comes to an end, means workforce planning and development should be a priority.
To be able to respond in good time, employers need to assign greater urgency to undertake strategic workforce planning that will help identify the skills and knowledge required now and for the future, which in turn will help to identify the extent of learning and development required.
2. DO YOU CURRENTLY EMPLOY EU NATIONALS?
If so, encourage them to sign up to the Government’s EU Settlement Scheme – the Government has also produced a toolkit for employers. EU citizens and their families who are living in the UK prior to 31 October 2019 have until 31 December 2020 to apply for settled status. However, given the uncertainty in how the UK immigration system will work in a no-deal scenario, it is recommended that EU citizens apply before 31 October 2019.
EU citizens who have settled status are able to demonstrate that they have permanent leave to remain. However, employers will not be required to check this until at the earliest 1 January 2021.
3. ONCE YOU KNOW WHERE THE PROBLEMS ARE LIKELY TO ARISE, PUT IN A PLAN COVERING:
- Upskilling existing workers into hard-to-fill positions
- Post-study work (PSW) visa options (the points-based system is only a suggestion – see point 7 for details)
- Using flexible workforces (contractors to fill short-term gaps)
- Investigate remote working (can you use technology to access skills in other countries without having to physically locate people in the UK)
4. IF THERE ARE LESS PEOPLE AVAILABLE AND MORE COMPETITION, THEN LOOK AT HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELVES FROM OTHERS AND IMPROVE YOUR EMPLOYER VALUE PROPOSITION:
- Build on your employee value proposition through non-financial benefits
- Modernise working models and practices, for example, the provision of flexible working and clear career development will help organisations both recruit and retain the people and skills
- An attractive business culture will enhance your brand and go some way to address hiring difficulties in the short-term but also make your organisation more attractive
5. IS THERE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR MORE SHARING OF SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE BETWEEN COMPANIES - MOVING TO COLLABORATIVE WORKING AND PARTNERSHIP MODELS?
Partnerships with academic institutions and between companies are on the rise, with some employers recognising that in order to access the skills they need, a blended approach to resourcing is necessary, moving from direct hires to sharing resource through collaboration.
6. DO YOU PROVIDE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA (EEA) STAFF INTO ROLES WHERE THEY REQUIRE PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS?
The mutual recognition of professional qualifications we currently have with other EU member states will end. There will be changes to how services are regulated and how professional qualifications obtained in the EEA and Switzerland are recognised. Ensure that you are aware of how this may affect your business - more information can be found on the Government’s website here.
7. ARE YOU PLANNING TO EMPLOY EU NATIONALS IN THE FUTURE?
If there is no-deal, the Government has announced there will be a transitional EU immigration period from the day after the UK leaves the EU until 31 December 2020. In this period, EU citizens and their family members will be able to move to and work in the UK as they do now. Right to work checks for employers of EU citizens will remain the same as they are now.
During this transition period, in a no-deal scenario, the Home Office will open a new voluntary immigration scheme, the European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR) scheme, giving EU citizens the ability to stay in the UK for 36 months from the date Euro TLR is granted. If you recruit an EU citizen during this transition period, who entered the UK after its exit from the EU, and who is intending to stay in the UK after 31 December 2020, the Government has stated that they must have permission to stay granted either under the Euro TLR or under the standard immigration system. More information can be found on the Home Office website.
The Government intends to introduce a new immigration system from January 2021. They plan to introduce this whether the UK leaves the EU with a deal or no-deal. This new system will mean that the same immigration rules will apply to both EU citizens and non-EU citizens from 1 January 2021. This may result in less EU citizens deciding to come to work in the UK and we recommend that you prepare for this. The Migration Advisory Committee is currently consulting on the immigration future system.