Making plans for life after Brexit
How can construction companies ensure workers from the European Union continue working for them after Brexit? Luna Williams looks at the current situation
Over the past 10 years, talent from the European Union has become increasingly integral to the UK’s construction sector, with EU migrants now making up approximately 8% of the industry’s workforce.
With Brexit negotiations now well under way, discussions about new immigration laws rage on and there is an unease and uncertainty growing in the construction industry. There have been suggestions of large-scale job losses, changes to visa requirements and even some talk of a “mass exodus” of EU workers, leaving a skills shortage in the industry.
But what do we really know about the new immigration laws, how might they impact the construction workforce and what can we do to relieve some of the concern that is currently being experienced?
What we know
According to a Home Office document recently leaked to The Guardian, the government’s current proposed changes to immigration laws outline a three-stage plan. The first stage refers to the preparation period leading up to Brexit, in which Theresa May’s government works to negotiate the appropriate terms and conditions of the UK’s exit from the EU.
The second, according to the document, will take place at the point at which this agreement has been made and finalised – as it stands this date is set as Friday 29 March 2019. The final stage, “the implementation phase”, is a two-year period after this, in which the new laws, including the transformed immigration laws, will be implemented.
This gives individuals and employers a significant amount of time in which to arrange and apply for the proper documentation that will be needed after Brexit, although anyone who is concerned about their status – or about their employee’s status – is advised to complete the appropriate paperwork as quickly as possible in order to make room for processing times.
How to prepare
During this implementation phase, EU migrants who want to remain and work in the UK will have to apply to be placed on a “settled status” register, a digital register which grants EU citizens currently residing and working in the UK the right to remain in the same position. To do this they may need to secure an appropriate working visa; this will most likely be a Tier 2 (General) visa.
This visa will be necessary if they have been offered – or want to remain working in – a skilled job role. In the construction sector, this would involve any job which requires a specific set of skills. These skills might, for example, include carpeting, welding, or plumbing, and would usually require some form of further education, whether that be a degree, college qualification or apprenticeship.
As an employer offering this position, you will be required to provide a “licensed sponsorship” for the individual(s) in question in which you will provide information such as job responsibilities, contract length and salary details. After this has been done, you will issue your employee(s) with a “certificate of sponsorship” which will essentially act as a recommendation to the UK government.
The current regulations which would make an individual eligible to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa as a skilled construction worker are as follows:
- They can prove they have a sufficient knowledge of the English language, where “sufficient” means they have passed an approved English language test, with at least a Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level B1 in all areas.
- They can prove they have personal savings – at present this is listed as £945 minimum, although there are exceptions in the case that employers offer to pay the worker’s first month’s salary in advance.
- They can present proof of their travel history over the last five years.
Of course, it is worth bearing in mind that some of these regulations and specifications may change or be altered after Brexit, since they currently refer to visa applications from outside the UK and from those who are not currently working within roles in the UK.
In turn, since the immigration laws are still being negotiated, this information should be taken as a guideline and if an individual or employer needs any specific advice or support with their situation they are encouraged to visit www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration/work-visas.
Luna Williams works for Immigration Advice Service, a law firm that specialises in assistance with visa applications