With experts expecting that Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March, this time next month Britain could be involved in negotiations for the departure of Britain from Europe.
So, how will Brexit effect the workplace? What rights will EU nationals have post-Brexit?
Just this week MPs rejected amendments to the Brexit bill, tabled by the house of Lords, which would have guaranteed EU nationals UK residency post-Brexit. This has has created a degree of uncertainty and Employers of EU workers and many EU workers themselves will have to wait for the outcome of the Brexit negotiations to know the full post Brexit working rights.
But, there are some things that we do know.
EU workers who have lived in the UK for 5 years on the day that the UK officially exits Europe, will automatically acquire permanent residence in The UK. This is a condition of EU membership that the UK and all existing members countries are bound by until they exit. Employers of EU workers will probably be pleased to know that reports from Migration Watch UK suggest that around 85% of EU nationals in the UK will have lived in the UK for five years at the point of Brexit and so should acquire automatic residency.
But, what will happen to those EU workers with less than 5 years tenure in the UK? Clearly, what happens in the negotiations will determine that. The good news for employers of EU workers and EU workers is that opinion polls suggest that over 85% of Britons want EU workers currently in the UK to be given the right to remain post-Brexit. So, public opinion seems to be on the side of EU workers.
Here is a likely post-Brexit scenario for EU workers and EU Employers
Temporary 2 year work permit
We could see a temporary 2 year work permit being granted to these short-tenure EU nationals, giving employers time to plan ahead, and also giving the government time to consult and agree their immigration policy. This temporary permit idea was put forward by Migration Watch UK
Since 4 out of 5 of the existing short-tenure EU workers residing in Britain at the point of Brexit would not meet visa requirements, based on April 2017 immigration rule changes. it’s likely that the British government might change or potentially ease the rules to allow some common sense EU migration. It would have to because under April 2017 rule changes 75% of EU workers in the UK in construction, manufacturing, energy and transport would fail visa requirements, and 66% of financial and banking sector EU workers would fail visa requirements. In fact, its clear that the immigration system would need to be overhauled to allow for the correct amount of immigration to meet the needs of the UK, probably using some kind of points system similar to Australia.
Seasonal Agriculture Scheme
With reports suggesting that 95% of British berries being picked by foreign workers, the NFU has been lobbying the government to introduce a special scheme to allow EU migrant agricultural workers to come to Britain for 6 months. The government has hinted that they might be willing to introduce some sort of seasonal agricultural scheme which means farmers and agricultural firms can breathe a sigh of relief.
Employer Levy on New EU Workers
A recent report in the Independent has talked about likelihood that the government will introduce a levy of £1,000 a year for every EU skilled worker they bring in following Brexit.
Low skilled workers under threat
It seems that higher skilled workers are going to be afforded more freedom to work in the UK than low-skilled workers and low-skilled workers will be subject to more stringent work permit restrictions.