Employment lawyers have urged employers to assist European staff with applying for the EU settlement scheme, ahead of the 30th June deadline.
The deadline for the EU settlement scheme (EUSS) is fast-approaching, with EU nationals having until the end of the month to apply for this.
Without settlement status, EU staff will be barred from working, opening a bank account, accessing healthcare and renting a home.
As such, employment lawyers at global immigration firm Fragomen, have encouraged employers to assist staff and their families in applying.
Previous research showed almost a third surveyed had never heard about the EUSS until made aware.
In addition, of the workers who did receive support in applying (under half of employees surveyed), three-quarters said this assistance was “quite” or a “very important” part of the process.
Legally, employers do not have responsibility to check whether an employee has applied or been granted settled status.
In fact, Bates Wells formerly warned employers that they cannot yet ask employees about their status under the EUSS, as EU nationals still have until June 30th to apply. If an employer does ask, the law firm warns, this could lead to claims of discrimination on the basis of country of origin.
However, Ian Robinson, Partner at Fragomen, also warned of this possibility but still assures employers to talk to their staff:
Over 5.4m people have applied for settled status in the past two years, with 53 per cent having been granted settled status and 44 per cent granted pre-settled status, yet there are many Europeans that have yet to apply.
Employers face a tricky challenge in that there is no legal basis in which they can ask staff if they have applied or obtained settled or pre-settled status. In fact, they potentially face discrimination claims if employers insist staff tell them.
We would, however, urge employers to talk to all their staff, not just those who are European nationals and offer help and guidance with applications. There is now a degree of urgency to act.
Ian Robinson suggests employers should inform staff that:
- They are eligible for settled or pre-settled status if they or their family members are an EU, EEA or Swiss national and were in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020.
- The application is straight-forward and will take around 20 minutes via an intuitive home office app or website. In most cases, the Home Office can track residency against tax or benefits records.
- The application can take up to four weeks to be processed, after which they will be awarded a digital status rather than a stamp in a passport. They only need to apply by 30 June.
- Do not lose track of that digital status as it will be needed when looking for work or renting a property.
Ian further added:
Employers can offer to help staff and their families with applications and, importantly for staff with pre-settled status, monitor the time frame to applying for settled status. Now is the time for employers to act.