The simple answer to that is yes! In fact, you have a duty not to discriminate against current or prospective employees who are EU citizens.
Over the summer the Home Office released useful resources explaining clearly what the EU Settlement Scheme means for employers and employees. The Scheme is being phased in this year and will be fully open by the end of March 2019. The key points to note for employers are:
You have a duty not to discriminate against EU citizens in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU as both a prospective or current employer.
Current ‘right to work’ checks (e.g. EU passport and/or national ID card) apply until the end of 2020. There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK until 2021.
You are not expected to pay/support the cost of the EU Settlement Scheme application for your EU citizen employees, but obviously can if you want to.
There is no legal obligation for you to communicate the EU Settlement Scheme, however you may wish to signpost the information that the Government is providing to help your existing EU employees.
You do not have to interpret information provided by the Government and you must be careful not to provide immigration advice.
Who can apply for Settled Status and When?
How long your employee or potential employee has been living in the UK will determine when they can apply for settled status:
- candidates/employees who have already been living in the UK for over 5 years will immediately qualify for ‘settled status’ once the scheme opens and will not have to do anything further after the UK leaves the EU
- candidates/employees who arrive before the UK’s exit but won’t have been resident in the UK for 5 years when we leave, will still be able to live and work in the UK until 30 June 2021 without having to make an application - so if they meet the 5 year requirement before June 2021 they can apply for ‘settled status’ then.
- candidates/employees who will not have been resident in the UK for 5 years by June 2021 will still be able to make an application under the EU Settelement Scheme, and subject to criminality and security checks, will be eligible for ‘pre-settled status’. Allowing them to stay in the UK until they have reached the 5 years continuous residence needed to be eligible for ‘settled status’.
The Home Office have tried to make the process as simple as possible, with a 3 step application process for EU citizens to follow to obtain their new UK immigration status:
Prove their identity
Show they live in the UK
Declare that they have no serious criminal convictions.
How simple and straight forward the process will be remains to be seen - the scheme is currently only rolled out to small tester groups giving the government time to assess the process efficiency before the scheme opens fully in March 2019.
So in the near future there is no real change for your EU citizen employees or potential employees and you must continue to treat them the same when it comes to opportunities and promotions.
As a business that works with clients and candidates across Europe we will be keeping a close eye on how the settlement scheme progresses and hope that it will be a simple and straightforward transition, enabling businesses across Europe to access the talent they need and for candidates to find their perfect role whether it be in the UK or within the European Union.
The government’s toolkit for employers can be viewed here and information on the settlement scheme for EU citizen employees can be viewed here.