Fastest 50: Working solutions can still be found post-Brexit

Flora Mewies
Flora Mewies
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With the trigger date for Article 50 fast approaching and considerable skills shortages in the UK, a key consideration for businesses looking to expand their workforces is whether they will be able to retain their non-British national employees and how they will be able to recruit from overseas in the future.

At the end of 2016, the Office for National Statistics reported that there were 2.2 million people working in the UK who were nationals of another EU country. Despite this, their ability to continue living and working in the UK post-Brexit remains unclear.

It seems likely that those who are already present in the UK will be able to remain as long as overseas British nationals are given reciprocal rights. To put employers and employees in the best position, EU nationals working in the UK should consider applying for a residence card or, if they have been working here for five years or more, a permanent residence card. This will provide evidence of their right to work in the UK.

The Home Office is continuing to clamp down on illegal working. The food and drink and care sectors in particular have felt the full force of this recently. The 2016 Immigration Act introduced tough new penalties for illegal workers. An illegal worker now commits a criminal offence with the penalty of imprisonment, fine or deportation.

The requirement on employers to carry out right-to-work checks on prospective employees is extremely strict and easy to fall foul of. The penalties for employing an illegal worker include a fine of £20,000 per illegal worker, imprisonment for up to five years, disqualification as a director and being named and shamed by the Home Office.

On top of this, the Home Office is making it increasingly difficult for businesses to employ workers from outside of the European Economic Area. Many companies are registered to sponsor non-EEA workers for employment in skilled roles in the UK. The education, healthcare and technology sectors rely heavily on this. From April 6, the cost associated with sponsoring an overseas worker will increase even further.

An Immigration Skills Charge is going to be levied against sponsors in an effort to reduce reliance on migrant workers and encourage investment in developing the skills of the existing UK workforce to fill skills shortages. This fee will be levied as an upfront charge of £1,000 per sponsored migrant per year. Small businesses and charities will be granted a reduced rate of £364 per sponsored migrant per year.

The minimum salary to be paid to an experienced worker sponsored by an employer increased in November 2016 to £25,000 a year and will increase again on April 6 to £30,000 a year.

These increased costs and challenges mean that employers must carefully analyse the skills shortages and recruitment needs in their businesses and determine the best way to fill these.

• For more information on the issues raised by this article, contact Flora Mewies at or on 0113 205 6797.