This week the government published a draft 585 page Brexit withdrawal agreement. You would struggle to find a newspaper or news channel which isn’t discussing this document and the fallout. With many opposed to the agreement, feeling it weakens the UK’s position, we thought we would provide a summary of what it might mean for employers (should it be accepted). Still to go through all the parliamentary hurdles, including a potential vote of no confidence in the prime minister and leadership race, so whether it is accepted in its current form or indeed at all remains to be seen. But as things stand today there are two key areas of note for employers:
Freedom Of Movement
One of the core topics of Brexit; the ability for people to freely move in the EU is one of particular interest to employers. Under the withdrawal agreement we will enter a transitional period until 31st December 2020 and in this time the current freedom of movement rules apply. This means that once the transitional period is over new immigration rules may come into force. The draft agreement does allow the EU to implement the requirement for UK citizens in the UK to have to apply for a new residence document.
So, what might this mean for you?
- If you have staff who are travelling around Europe, perhaps to visit different sites or customers then from 2021 they may be subject to additional visa requirements. What these requirements remain to be seen but this may create an increased administrative requirement and a change to processes. If you have UK staff based overseas (in Europe) for extended periods it is likely that they will need a visa. You might want to plan in changes to your travel or global mobility policies to reflect increased procedural requirements in Europe. You may want to look at business continuity planning for those who are located abroad beyond the transition date and think about how you can make this as smooth as possible internally.
- If your business relies on staff from other countries within the EU, you need to start considering how you can manage the transition. The reality is that some may not continue to live in the UK and that recruitment of staff from outside the UK may be more challenging. With an adjustment from permanent residence to settled status, the policies around immigration are already set to start changing in 2019. If this is a big part of your business now is the time to start thinking about what you need to do, especially if there is a skills shortage within the UK leading to this recruitment. Your teams may feel uncertain whilst the details and agreements are put in place, think about what you can do to support them.
Currently, our employment legislation is linked to European Law with the European Court of Justice overseeing legal cases. During the transitional period, this will continue to be the case, with employees having the right to refer their case to the ECJ. In the event that backstop agreements are triggered (ie Brexit cannot be delivered by 31st December 2020) then any matters will continue to refer to the ECJ. Equally, under the backstop agreements, the UK must observe a level playing field to employment (as well as other factors) meaning we would likely continue to match EU law.
The agreement allows for non – regression clauses, meaning that we are unable to bring in lower standards than what we have currently on employment, social and environment matter.
As an employer, therefore, you can expect that things are not going to be radically changed overnight and that standards will remain however more detail on this will emerge in time.
What is clear is that the UK employment landscape is entering a period of uncertainty and turbulence. This requires business leaders to focus on planning, thinking about what Brexit may mean under these terms and putting in place contingency plans. Communication, as in any period of change is essential, you may not be able to influence this directly but you can influence how your employees feel in terms of the support you provide them, open dialogue is important. You may want to think about running change management sessions, equipping managers with tools such as the Change Curve to help them deal with what comes up whilst continuing to deliver business objectives.
HR2day can help train and coach your managers, contact us for information.