After many turbulent political months, it appears that the decisive General Election result in December finally signals the departure of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) in just three weeks’ time.
This end to uncertainty has largely been welcomed by employers, yet a recent survey by Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing suggests that many organisations have yet to take any concrete action to ensure that their EU workers based in the UK can continue to reside and work in the United Kingdom after the 31st December 2020.
The research was undertaken amongst an audience of nearly 200 senior HR and Finance professionals in London at the end of November 2019. The survey found that 13% of employers did not employ any EU nationals, but of those that did more than 1 in 3 (35%) had not provided any support to their workers and/or dependents with regard to applications for settled status. Commenting on these findings, Steve Herbert, Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing said;
“It is estimated that there are over 3 million EU citizens residing in the UK, and it follows that many of these are working for employers of all sizes and sectors across the nation. Yet our research demonstrates that at least a third of organisations have as yet offered no practical assistance to their EU employees in this important respect.
At present the nation is experiencing record levels of employment, so it will be difficult to replace these workers if they opt to leave the UK for other EU locations as a result of feeling unwanted or overlooked. The reality is that both the UK and individual employers really need these workers to remain and continue to contribute to the post-Brexit economy, so it is essential that employers recognise the need to support employees and their families in achieving settled status so that they can continue to work and reside in the UK.”
The research also looked at the support being offered to UK workers based overseas – and in particular those in the EU. More than two thirds of employers claimed to have no UK workers based overseas, but of those that did only 21% had both reviewed policies and communicated with their workers regarding the impending changes of Brexit.
Adam Harding, Divisional Director of International Benefits, commented;
“What Brexit actually means for international benefits policies will still not be clear until it actually happens, and in the passing of time as new regulations are potentially implemented. However, we do know that there are already regulations in some current EU locations. For example, the Netherlands mandates locally purchased health insurance for anyone based there. So will other countries follow suit, or indeed will the UK implement tighter regulation?
It is important for employers to be aware of the potential repercussions and impact on their business and employees. Not all insurers will be able to cope with UK and EU based risks, and neither will all intermediaries in this space.. The key is for them to stay on top of this with contingencies being available for all eventualities.”
Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing is launching an audit service for employers to sense-check whether their current healthcare and travel policies for UK workers based in the EU and other overseas locations remain suitable post-Brexit.