The end of EU free movement and a No Deal Brexit will undoubtedly be felt across UK health & social care, as immigration solicitor Anne Morris explains.
The UK Government has published its transition arrangements for EU immigration in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
For health and social care providers, the changes should be of concern. Restricted access to EU workers comes at a time when shortages in frontline care workers plague the sector and the domestic labour market continues to fall short in meeting the demand for care staff.
What are the transitional arrangements?
Should the UK leave the EU on 29th March 2019 without a deal, EU free movement will end with immediate effect.
EU citizens coming to the UK after this date will be allowed to enter and stay for a maximum period of 3 months. To remain here lawfully beyond 3 months, they will need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain, allowing them to work or study in the UK for up to 3 years.
European Temporary Leave to Remain is just that – temporary. It will not count towards settled status, permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain. After this period of stay, individuals will have to leave the UK or apply for further leave to remain under a different visa category, if eligible.
EU workers already in the UK by 29th March 2019 will be able to stay, provided they apply for the new EU ‘settled status’ before the end of the transitional period in December 2020.
EU citizens with British Citizenship will not be affected by changes to the immigration rules.
What can employers do to support EU workers during this period of transition?
8% of the UK health and social care workforce are EU citizens – over 100,000 workers – according to Skills for Care. It’s a sizable proportion, requiring support and advice through this period of unprecedented change.
Many businesses are holding presentations and drop-in surgeries for employees, to provide support and information about the EU settlement scheme and how it affects them and their families. An audit process will help you identify who your EU citizen employees are.
Training for management and HR is also helping to ensure accuracy and consistency of information within organisations.
Impact on recruitment strategies
Changes to the UK immigration rules, both during the transition period and beyond, will undoubtedly affect how care providers recruit and on-board EU citizens.
Under the transition arrangements, up to December 2020, EU citizens coming to the UK will only be granted time-limited leave to remain. This could present immigration compliance risks for employers, requiring a review of Right to Work checks to ensure they remain effective under the new rules.
The transition period will be used by the Government to formulate a new immigration system, set to take effect by January 2021. The detail is awaited, particularly in relation to special provisions for care sector providers to be able to employ workers in care roles that would otherwise not meet new skills and salary thresholds for work visas.
We also expect EU nurses to have to apply for a skilled worker visa, in the same way as non-EEA nurses do under the current Tier 2 visa, necessitating a review of your sponsor licence.
With so much change ahead, both imminent and in the medium term, care provides are advised to look at their recruitment strategies, budgets and policies now so as to maintain staffing levels and care standards while also ensuring compliance with new rules as they take effect.
Anne Morris is immigration solicitor and Managing Director at UK immigration law firm, DavidsonMorris.