Third of UK employers failing to help EU staff

More than one in three UK companies with EU27 employees have not provided their European staff with any support to acquire Settled Status after Brexit, according to a survey.

Third of UK employers failing to help EU staff.
Consultant Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing conducted research at a conference in London involving almost 200 senior HR and finance professionals, and found that 87 per cent of companies represented employed EU nationals.But 35 per cent of those firms admitted they had not given any support to their workers or their dependents to apply for Settled Status – the government programme that enables those registered to remain permanently in the UK after the Brexit transition period is completed.

Settled Status scheme concerns

It was reported last week that the European Commission had raised concerns about the rollout of the Settled Status scheme, under which EU27 nationals have until June 2021 to register.The Daily Telegraph reported that Michel Barnier, Brussels' chief Brexit negotiator, had written to Stephen Barclay, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, to warn that early experience with the settlement scheme had “brought to the surface possible issues of concern” and he urged London to take action to “rapidly address any practical issue that could arise”.Latest government figures show that, by the end of November 2019, almost 2.6 million people had applied under the scheme, with more than 2.2 million of the registrations being approved. Estimates of the total number of EU27 nationals in the UK range between 3 million and 3.7 million.The Howden survey also looked at the help being offered to UK workers based overseas. While only one-third of the companies had such staff, only 21 per cent of those said they had reviewed policies in the light of Brexit and communicated the likely changes to their workers.

UK employers must support EU workers

Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Howden, says, “It is estimated that there are over three million EU citizens residing in the UK and it follows that many of these are working for employers of all sizes and sectors across the nation. Yet our research demonstrates that at least a third of organisations have, as yet, offered no practical assistance to their EU employees in this important respect.“At present, the nation is experiencing record levels of employment, so it will be difficult to replace these workers if they opt to leave the UK for other EU locations as a result of feeling unwanted or overlooked.“The reality is that both the UK and individual employers need these workers to remain and continue to contribute to the post-Brexit economy, so it is essential that employers recognise the need to support employees and their families in achieving settled status so that they can continue to work and reside in the UK.”
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On British staff based in the EU, Adam Harding, Howden's divisional director of international benefits, accepted that it is still not clear what the eventual arrangements between the UK and the bloc would be."However," he adds, "we do know that there are already regulations in some current EU locations. For example, the Netherlands mandates locally purchased health insurance for anyone based there. So will other countries follow suit, or, indeed, will the UK implement tighter regulation?“It is important for employers to be aware of the potential repercussions and impact on their business and employees. Not all insurers will be able to cope with UK- and EU-based risks, and neither will all intermediaries in this space. The key is for them to stay on top of this with contingencies being available for all eventualities.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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