UK HE Institutions employ and teach huge numbers of EU Nationals. One of the side effects of the Brexit vote and the ensuing uncertainty (which is set out in detail in Elena's recent article on immigration implications for HEI employees and students) is the significant risk that current employees simply decide to leave the UK regardless of the actual implication on their immigration status. There is also a risk that potential recruits decide not to "take the risk" on the UK and so never come here in the first place. Sharmila Mehta, Consultant, sets out below how she has helped an HE Institution provide support to HR teams trying to maintain engagement amongst its EU workforce.
The key point to understand is that EU Nationals working in the UK have not had to deal with the UK Home Office before. The prospect of submitting original passports/ID cards and personal documentation can appear daunting and off-putting. We wanted to ensure that the employees felt supported and took decisions about their employment based on a proper understanding of UK immigration law and what they can do. In order to achieve this outcome we decided to take the following steps:
1. A series of information presentations by Farrers which are open to any employees who were interested. These presentations are taking place over a period of months, which means that we can provide up to date information as it becomes available – i.e if changes to the law are proposed or politically it looks like the UK might take a different direction, we can pass that on immediately. Initially there have been a concentrated number of presentations and these will decrease over time but are likely to continue and be updated as they go along. The presentations cover, amongst other things, the nature of Freedom of Movement, the law on exercising Treaty Rights and the practical way this has to be documented in immigration applications, the eligibility criteria for permanent residence, British Citizenship, how to apply and what to expect in terms of process.
2. Following the presentations we have had open questions and answer sessions. This has the effect of quickly providing answers to specific questions and providing reassurance and guidance to the workforce – and is concrete evidence that the institution is investing in its employees and values their contribution to the institution. At the end of the process, the Q&As are written up into a FAQ document which will be made available to all staff.
3. As a further form of support, we arranged for an independent immigration firm to provide one to one assistance for any employee who had specific personal questions. One hour of this advice per employee and/or their family members is being fully funded by the institution concerned.
We believe that this was an excellent and successful initiative for an "engaged employer". The feedback the institution has received from staff has been very positive and staff have been very appreciative of the support that is being offered at a time of great uncertainty for them. We are very pleased to be able to support our HE client in this way.
If you would like to discuss a similar initiative, please contact Sharmila Mehta (firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 3375 7324) or your usual contact at the firm on 020 3375 7000. Further information can also be found on our 'focus on Brexit' page.
This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
© Farrer & Co LLP, August 2016