The consequences of Britain voting to leave the European Union has been and will continue to be far reaching, be they financial, economical or political. An immediate question is the impact of Brexit on individuals and what UK employers are doing to reassure European families working in the UK with concerns about what Brexit means for them. Fragomen's 'Helping business prepare for Brexit' survey report, which was published recently, found that only 26% of businesses currently have an immigration plan in place for Brexit. The majority of those are starting with efforts to reassure their employees and guide them on their options until Article 50 is invoked and formal negotiations start.
The status of EU citizens is often covered in the media, how this translates into the lives of employees is not always clear.
Post Referendum, Questions arose regarding the outcome and through a series of roadshows we are helping clients get to grips with what the EU referendum could mean for their immigration programmes now and in the future, as well as provide support to their staff.
A primary goal has been to reassure the European workforce that until formal negotiations are put in place, there are no immediate changes. Fragomen’s survey report found that 79% of respondents have employees worried that they will need to leave the UK. The roadshows can be effective because sometimes, it's more than enough to say that right now, there isn’t much to say! What it has provided is the opportunity for staff to speak to us, to give them a forum to put forward their queries and questions. Above all, the sessions have been interactive – at times quite impassioned! – and have acted as the start of a route to permanent residency or naturalisation applications now.
A roadshow is for some clients the first step, others going the extra mile and offering ongoing assistance to their EU workforce. The roadshow sessions are a forum in which to offer up questions, 1 to 1 sessions have followed for individual consults and for some, full support with permanent residency and naturalisation applications.
The secondary goal for many clients, where feasible, has been to ensure support is tailored to the needs of their workers; that often varies between the size of the workforce and how widespread they are in terms of location. For some, this may extend as far as covering initial consultations, whilst some clients go further, supporting relevant applications their employees decide to progress with, with the aim that any applications lodged are successful in the first instance and minimising the chances of delay.
It’s easy to forget that Brexit concerns affect not only those EU nationals living and working in the UK but also British nationals on assignment in Continental Europe. Again, whilst any impact will largely depend on the direction of formal negations, it is that opportunity to join a forum and voice concerns or ask questions that provide comfort. Harder to host a roadshow for employees abroad, some clients opt for conference calls or video link sessions with their international employees with support from Fragomen’s local lawyers across the Continent, providing the same opportunity and perhaps even consolidating their status as European citizens in the relevant host country.
The biggest learning – keep communicating with your employees. For now, at least, that can be one of the fundamentals in supporting them through these uncertain times.