Brexit may be one of employers’ biggest concerns going into 2019, but unfortunately, we still have more question than answers.

Everyone wants to know the latest information to try and take steps to prepare for the post-Brexit landscape. 

However, despite Brexit now delayed until October 31st, there is still a lot of areas which have yet to be ironed out and some which remain a big mystery.

So what do we know so far?

Laws

In June 2018, the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 (originally known as the Great Repeal Bill) was given Royal Assent by the Queen.  The government’s press release says “This historic Act will make sure the UK’s laws – entwined with over 40 years of EU law – continue to work from the day we leave, ensuring a smooth and orderly exit. It does this by transferring EU law into UK law where appropriate and creating temporary powers to correct the laws that will no longer operate appropriately…Now that the Act has become law, the Government can start to use the powers in the Act to prepare our statute book for our exit from the EU”.

For the moment, there will be no changes to employers’ obligation or employees’ rights.

EU Workers

Under the EU Settlement Scheme, EU workers will be able to obtain settled or pre-settled status. This will allow them to live and work in the UK after 31st December 2020. To achieve settled status, EU citizens will be required to have lived continuously in the UK for a period of five years. If an EU citizen has less than five years’ continuous residence, they will be issued pre-settled status. The government has said that the scheme will be open fully in March 2019. It’s not entirely clear whether this could change in light of any further agreement with the EU as part of the negotiations.

Some people may be eligible to participate in the EU Settlement Scheme pilot, which kicks off 1 November and ends 21 December 2018.

Seek expert immigration advice if you require more information.

Non-EU workers

At the time of writing, it is not yet known how non-UK resident EU Citizens will be affected by Brexit.

No deal

In August 2018, the government published a series of guidance in the event that a deal cannot be reached.

In its “Workplace rights if there’s no Brexit deal” document, the government sets out that there will be no change to employees’ rights and protections. Some minor amendments will need to be made to the language of the legislation to reflect our departure from the EU, but they will not modify policy.

It also highlights that there are no anticipated financial repercussions for businesses operating in the UK in relation to workplace rights.

Brexit

Three ways employers can prepare for Brexit

Do you have workers who will have to achieve settled or pre-settled status? If your business is heavily reliant on EU workers, think about what support you can give them. You could consider providing information about the latest Brexit immigration developments in team meetings or as part of your internal communications; help them obtain tailored legal and immigration advice or pay or contribute towards the costs of application fees (it’s £65 for those who are 16 or over).

It is worth looking ahead to see if any skills gaps could present themselves after Brexit and what possible solutions could be implemented to mitigate the risks. For example, could you explore more apprenticeships?

Keep an eye out for developments. Consider regularly updating your employees regarding these, particularly those directly affected.

Comment

James Tamm, our Director of Legal Services, has commented on the implications this has for UK businesses. 

“From an employment law perspective, the delay of Brexit will make little practical difference.

Even though a significant proportion of UK employment law is derived from the EU, it is enshrined in domestic legislation and that would not have been immediately affected by Brexit. What we do have, and what is perhaps more costly for employers, is continuing uncertainty which is bad for investment and growth. It will be difficult for business to plan for the coming financial year without being sure whether we will be in or out of the EU come 1 November. What happens to imports and exports after that date and what about employers who rely on migrant workers from the EU?

What does seem relatively clear is that there is no political appetite for a no deal scenario. Given that, some kind of deal seems the most likely outcome which will probably bring with it guarantees for workers from the EU (in line with the current Settlement Scheme) and some form of trade protections.

Perhaps with that in mind, the best thing business can do is plan “as normal” but ensure they have emergency contingency plans in place to combat any disruption from no deal.”

Keep up to date with Brexit

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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