Theresa May has announced plans to drop the £65 fee that the government was planning to levy on EU employees applying for settled status in the UK ahead of Brexit. Any employees who have already paid the fee will be refunded.
A number of employers had stated that they planned to fund this fee to support their employees and this will no longer be necessary. Employers still have an important role to play in ensuring that employees are aware of the scheme when it fully launches on 30th March 2019 and could consider offering practical help and advice to employees on completing the online form as well as potentially providing access to computers for employees who don't have regular access to them.
We have seen an increasing number of queries from employers who are concerned about the future legal status of EU workers post-Brexit and this is beginning to figure in their recruitment decisions. Our advice is clear - the settlement scheme can be used by employees to either apply for settled status (if they have been in the UK for five years) or to pre-register for such status. Therefore employers can continue to confidently recruit employees from the EU despite the uncertainty that continues as to the overall likely outcome of Brexit.
In terms of skills shortages, businesses should be planning for potential impact from July 2021 when immigration status will change for EU workers, and also taking note of the declining number of EU nationals who are choosing to live and work in the UK in the first place. Some options include upskilling existing employees, considering technology solutions ahead of time, investing further in apprenticeship programmes, obtaining a sponsor licence to ensure that the business will be able to recruit non-EU nationals and considering changing the location where work is carried out/outsourcing outside the UK.
May told MPs she had listened to “powerful representations” on the scheme. “I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30 March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. Anyone who has applied during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed.”