Employment and pensions

Brexit and immigration: is your workforce Brexit ready?

Published on 19th Nov 2018


With a draft Withdrawal Agreement now on the table but the political situation in the UK far from stable, it can be hard to keep up with what this means for your business. However, as Brexit Day looms near, we now have a clearer indication of how Brexit may impact you and your workforce – and what you can do now to prepare.

With only four months to go until the UK leaves the EU, and a transition period still dependent on the Withdrawal Agreement being ratified by both the UK and the EU, it is now critical more than ever that your business is ready for the significant impact this could have on your workforce. If this is not already at the top of your thoughts, it really should be.

Given the political uncertainty, it could very well be that as of 29 March 2019, the UK leaves on a "no deal" basis and all regulations regarding EU free movement end. This would have a major impact on the ability to employ new EU workers . Of course, the Withdrawal Agreement may be ratified, in which case this will postpone the new regime until 31December 2020 (or possibly beyond, if the transition period is extended). Are you ready for however this plays out?

In addition, compliance with immigration rules and restrictions, especially right to work requirements, is ever more onerous. With potential fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, possible criminal sanctions and, if you currently sponsor migrants, the loss of your license to do so, businesses simply cannot afford to get this wrong. This is aside from the possible reliance you may have on the current labour market. It is therefore essential that your workforces are audited to ensure compliance, not just now, but so you can plan appropriately going forward.

So what can you be doing now?

A thorough review of your workforce is the fundamental starting point. Once you are fully aware of who may be impacted, you can then plan for all eventualities. Important considerations can include the following:

Current workforce

  • what proportion of your current workforce is non-UK EEA nationals?
  • what evidence of their status do you currently have?

Should they be applying for either pre-settled or settled status?

  • are you, as their employer, willing to assist?
  • are you certain you will not be discriminatory in your processes?
  • do you have appropriate right to work procedures in place?

The future

  • how reliant on EU workers are you?
  • have you planned the impact on your future recruitment needs?
  • if not already, will you need a license to employ migrant workers?

How can we help?

Our specialist immigration team would be happy to discuss the impact of Brexit on your workforce to guide you through this transition period to mitigate any possible impact and avoid possible catastrophe. We can assist in putting in place robust systems to ensure continued compliance and to ensure you are ready for whatever happens.

Interested in hearing more from Osborne Clarke?

* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

Connect with one of our experts

Interested in hearing more from Osborne Clarke?

Related articles