How would a Brexit affect employment and immigration law for companies?

This June could see a shift in the legislation that firms have to adhere to, but at the moment it is only hypothetical.

Some are trying to get ahead before any possible alterations. Speaking to Executive Grapevine, Jonathan Beech, Managing Director of Migrate UK, discussed the rise of companies applying for permanent residency on behalf of their employees.

“Migrate UK is already seeing a surge in European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who have been working in the UK for over five years, applying for permanent residency and then British nationality,” he said, “We believe that news of a referendum and talk of a Brexit is the cause behind this rise in applications, as employers as well as individual workers want to cement their status in the UK prior to any more changes that could come with an exit.

“Prior to November 2015, EEA citizens could apply for British nationality without showing they had a permanent residency card, but since last November, the rules have changed and the extra permanent residency process has to now take place prior to a British nationality application.”

He went on to outline potential changes that may come into effect: “A British exit from Europe also brings the possibility of the introduction of work sponsorship for European workers similar to the current system in place for non-EEA workers. This will be selective depending on the technicality and seniority of the vacancy, the rate of pay and whether any settled workers can actually fill the role.

“And it is expected that the government would introduce transitional arrangements for EEA citizens residing in the UK at the time, but there is no indication how long this would last for.”

Also speaking to Executive Grapevine, Kevin Charles, Director of Crossland Employment Solicitors, said it is unlikely an exit from the EU would have any immediate or short-term impact on UK employment laws.

“This is because firstly, large areas of UK employment law, such as unfair dismissal, industrial relations and industrial action, emanate from UK and not EU law. 

“Secondly, any attempt by the Government to water down the impact of EU directives on UK law, particularly in areas such as discrimination, are likely to be met with fierce opposition from unions and employee groups.”

However, an out vote may not mean the rulebook gets rewritten. Charles continues: “While perhaps more significantly, the influence of EU law has become so firmly entrenched in employment contracts, employee relations and the whole fabric and culture of our day-to-day working lives that it would be incredibly difficult to disentangle - not just practically, but politically and socially.”

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