Firms 'must act now' on EU settlement scheme

Employers are being urged to take action now to ensure existing staff from the European Union are not denied the right to work in the UK because of Brexit.

EU settlement scheme
Edinburgh-based law firm Brodies issued the call after the latest Home Office statistics showed a "substantial" increase in the number of EU Settlement Scheme applications being refused.Elaine McIlroy, an employment law specialist at the firm, says in her article on the company website that, by the start of July, 3.71 million applications had been made under the scheme and 3.46 million had been successful.

EU settlement scheme: increasing numbers of refusals

But, Ms McIlroy points out, there has also been a significant increase in the numbers being refused recently, with the total of 900 in May increasing to 2,300 by the start of last month."This marked increase in refusals and cases where 'no status' has been granted emphasises the importance of encouraging your workforce to apply early. Some employers will have a very significant number of EU citizens (and their family members) working for them. The impact of a number of those employees not having permission to work as at June 30, 2021, could be costly and disruptive."

Apply as early as possible

Ms McIlroy says that employers should encourage EU nationals to apply as early as possible to enable them to supply any additional information requested by the Home Office or to re-apply should an application be rejected."If an employee waits until close to the deadline of June 30 before applying and is subsequently refused, they may lose their eligibility to work - with an immediate impact on the individual and their employer. Applicants should also bear in mind that the application process is also taking longer due to COVID-19 delays," she writes."There is clearly an incentive for both employers and their employees to have any issues flushed out early. Some applications may be refused as a result of suitability criteria (such as criminal records) and, in some cases, it may be as a result of insufficient information having been submitted to prove that they were eligible for either settled or pre-settled status."

EU settlement scheme: refusal could mean dismissal

Ms McIlroy warns that if an EU national is unable to prove he or she has the right to live and work in the UK once the scheme has closed, this could ultimately result in the person having to be dismissed."Not only will this have negative consequences on the employee, but it could also mean that the employer loses valuable members of its workforce as a result," she says.Brodies is one of a number of firms offering virtual workshops for the EU nationals within organisations - a useful way, say the lawyers, of ensuring workers are "up to speed in relation to the EU Settlement Scheme application process and deadlines, and to encourage them to apply early, mitigating the risk of problems arising at a later date".

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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