Should employers pay for their employees to stay in the UK after Brexit?

Italian dining chain Carluccio’s is set to pay for its 1,550 non-British EU employees to apply for ‘settled-status’ in the UK after Brexit.

The EU Settlement Scheme is set to be fully rolled out from 30 March 2019, giving all EU nationals to opportunity to obtain clearance that will allow them to remain in the UK. Obtaining clearance will be a legal requirement but it comes at a cost of £65 for adults and £32.50 for children. So should other businesses follow Carluccio’s suit and pay for their employees to stay in the UK after Brexit?

We spoke to Paul Holcroft, Associate Director at employment law consultancy Croner.  He advises:

“Whilst there is no obligation, nor expectation, upon employers to pay for the applications, they may find that it will be beneficial in the long run. Employees may be concerned about their job stability going forward, which could have a detrimental effect upon their overall productivity and morale. In this uncertain time, offering to cover the application fee can help to demonstrate to the workforce that there are highly regarded and valued, and so increase employee engagement whilst allaying any fears about job security.  It is also worth considering that an element of competition between employers could be created. If employees know they will have their fee paid for by another employer, it might incentivise them to make the move elsewhere. Both immediate and long-term retention of employees may be assisted by covering the cost of the application.

“If an employer is considering paying for the applications they should first factor the full cost into their overall budget. It is likely that many EU workers will also have families who will need to apply so the employer will also need to decide if they are going to cover the cost of their applications too. Employers can choose to be more selective and only provide payment for some of their workers, for example restricting financial assistance to more senior members of staff, or only those areas of the business where losing staff would have the most detrimental impact on the business, however, they should proceed with caution. Offering this assistance to one group of employees in preference of another could lead to a claim of indirect discrimination, potentially resulting in tribunal claims.”