Brexit is vastly becoming the defining political event of the 21st Century within the UK. With Theresa May’s Chequers plan being firmly rejected by the EU, unless otherwise agreed through negotiations, the UK will leave the EU on the 29th March 2019 whether that be through a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit. With six months to go it is important to ask in what ways this will affect HR.
Firstly, it important to discuss what business know for sure. Despite the understandable concerns of EU citizens currently living and working in the UK around their post-Brexit rights, it seems the government has delivered on its promise that no one currently here will be forced to leave – up to a point, at least. The government is proposing a ‘paperless’ settled status application system for the 3.8m EU nationals already in the UK, with successful applicants being issued with online codes. This new system however will mean a serious headache for HR.
A government white paper published in July revealed that, although freedom of movement between the UK and the EU will end after Brexit, the UK will seek to secure a reciprocal mobility arrangement to make sure businesses and workers can still enjoy some degree of flexibility. Neil Carberry of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) suggests that, “Recruiters have been clear that Britain needs a comprehensive mobility deal with the EU to support national prosperity,” “The white paper suggests this may be possible, but it leaves too many questions unanswered.” These unanswered questions could pose problems for HR in a respect to the legality of the person working within the company or organisation as well as replacing employees who no longer meet the criteria to work in the UK.
The removal of non-EU doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 visa cap, plus the government white paper’s promise of mutual recognition for professional qualifications between the UK and EU countries, has helped dampen concerns over the supply of skilled staff from abroad. The exemption of doctors and nurses from the cap – which came after the limit was reached for six consecutive months at the start of 2018 – means British businesses are now able to collectively recruit around 8,000 more skilled migrants per year in IT, engineering and teaching, as well as alleviating worries around the supply of vital NHS clinical staff.
However, the removal of Labourers who do not fit this bracket could have a detrimental affect on other industries, such as manufacturing and agriculture. The removal of EU Citizens because of being of a lower skill set could have a damaging affect on these types of Organisations. 81% of employers who offered temporary work had EU citizens to fill these roles. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) estimated three-quarters (75 per cent) of EU nationals working full-time in the UK now would be barred from the country if the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recent recommendations were applied to them. The MAC published its report on future UK immigration systems after the end of the Brexit implementation period in 2020. It recommended scrapping the Tier 2 visa cap to make it easier for high-skilled workers to migrate to the UK post-Brexit. However, the MAC said, with the exception of a seasonal agricultural workers scheme, sector-specific migration routes for low skilled workers were unnecessary, and low-skilled roles could be filled by extending the Tier 5 youth mobility scheme.
Although there are things that HR know for definite within the scope of Brexit, most of it is still largely unknown and the next six months could be an important period for the HR sector.
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