Managing business after Brexit
Our article ‘Employing Foreign Workers in the UK’ discusses why firms might want to employ foreign nationals in the UK. It mentions the EU Settlement scheme that will come into force after Brexit and it then focusses on sponsorship licences.
This blog builds on our previous discussion on the EU Settlement Scheme. It highlights action managers need to take to enable staff to make short-duration visits to EU countries for academic, sales or technical activities. We point out that business trips will need to be planned in the future. It won't just be a case of booking a flight and putting equipment in a suitcase.
Settled status is the means by which EU nationals and their families will have the right to remain and work in the UK. It’s not your responsibility to apply for settled status on behalf of your employees. It’s not your responsibility to provide opinion on whether the individual and their family members will be granted settlement status. It is not your responsibility to interpret government guidance or to give immigration advice.
But, as an employer, you do have an onus to ensure that your business employs only those who are eligible to work in the UK. This is no different to the checks that you should be undertaking at present.
The Government website has lots of resources that, as an employer, you can access to assist your current EU staff or potential recruits.
The EU Settlement Scheme toolkit (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-employer-toolkit) enables you to provide your employees a range of documents for EU citizens who want to apply for settled status. The toolkit of downloadable materials includes briefing information, flowcharts, leaflets, factsheets and other information that will help your employees understand what action they need to take.
Whilst you have no responsibility for assisting employees in reaching Settled Status, you would be negligent if you found in the months ahead that those employees had to resign as a result of their own ignorance or inaction. It’s always less costly to keep the people you have than hire new.
It’s well worth talking to EU nationals on your staff to ensure they are aware and are taking any necessary action.
Employment checks after Brexit
As an employer you must not discriminate against EU citizens once we leave the EU. This holds true for both current employees and future employees. Until 30 June 2021 EU citizens maintain the same rights as they currently have. When taking on new employees you will conduct the same right-to-work checks as you do now. If the UK leaves without a deal the relevant date will be 31 December 2020, at which time, a new immigration scheme will be in place. We’ll update on these changes once more is known.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, services provided by UK professionals in the EU will be seen as originating from a third country. This means that if you have employees who work overseas at any point, you will need to ensure that their UK professional qualifications are recognised in the countries where you need to work. This will be necessary even if the professional service provided is temporary or occasional. The European Commission’s Regulated Professional Database (REGPROF) at https://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/regprof/index.cfm will allow you to check which professions are regulated.
For example, the job of ‘engineer’ is regulated. In Germany, while you can still work in engineering, you would be forbidden under German law from calling yourself an ‘engineer’ unless you had a relevant qualification recognised in Germany.
In many countries where qualifications are regulated, you may need specific qualifications in the activities of the business before being allowed to work in the profession and open a branch or subsidiary of a UK firm.
Changes to professional qualifications and recognition in order to trade are long term changes for UK firms and we recommend that you investigate any possible restrictions that might matter.
Business trips to Europe
For business trips to Europe after Brexit, passports will need to be less that 10 years old – travel must be not more than 10 years from date of issue - and they will need to be valid for at least six months after the date of travel.
It’s unclear what arrangements will be put in place post-Brexit for short term business trips. Considering the present arrangement for non-EU nationals coming to the UK as illustrative, some countries have a visa-waiver for UK workers, while for others, a visa for business trips is needed. This type of structure is likely under a hard Brexit. They key point here is that after Brexit, your employees will not be able to jump on a plane, or train, and go and do work in an EU country. Forward planning of the trip and documentation will be needed.
If employees are required to drive whilst in Europe they may need an international driving permit and their vehicle may need additional insurance or at least proof that their insurance covers the country in which they’ll drive.
Since the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) may not be valid after Brexit, your employees may have to pay for all health services, up to and including re-patriation. They should therefore have travel insurance that includes healthcare. You will need to ensure that all employees who are likely to travel to the EU for meetings, or to conduct business, have the relevant documents.
Consideration will also need to be given to equipment that is being taken to the EU – even on a business trip. As with the employee, the relevant documents will need to be in place to import, and then export, equipment. This will include commercial samples, academic samples and test equipment. It won’t just be a case of putting kit in a suitcase and jumping on a plane. The AKA Carnet system is one possible option and this is available through Chambers of Commerce. There’s a good write up on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATA_Carnet. Such management of documents to go with goods requires preplanning – and gets very complex if the goods are sold abroad during the visit, breaching the carnet conditions.
An exemplar of what will likely be needed post-Brexit is to assume that your workers are to go to Russia. It’s well worth working that scenario through for your firm to see what might be needed – and then to keep an eye on Brexit developments.
So, in conclusion. Nothing will be as easy as it is currently. No longer will businesses be able to simply hop on a train, or plane, to conduct business in the EU. Advanced planning will be needed, as it is for other areas of the world. We’ll know more once we reach the Brexit deadline. And TimelessTime will update this, and our other Brexit focussed articles as new information becomes available.