Latest News

Employment blog
  • Published:
    20 April
  • Area of Law:

Brexit Focus: Retain Your Global Talent

Less than two weeks ago, Teresa May gave formal notice to trigger Article 50 and start negotiations in the lead up to the UK’s exit from the European Union. 

In terms of next steps, the government plans to set out the Great Repeal Bill in the Queen’s speech next month. Should it become law, it will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and provide the mechanism by which existing EU legislation can be absorbed within UK law. Whilst we are still unclear as to what the UK’s exit from the EU will look like, there is little doubt that the UK will face a significant challenge with attracting global talent and business.

There has not yet been any commitment from the government to secure the rights of the UK’s European workforce.  We also do not know what impact, if any, Brexit will have on attracting non European nationals. Recruiting talent from overseas has always been a good way for UK business to fill a skills gap.  The government’s chosen approach could however deter migrant skilled professionals because of the introduction of  more stringent requirements, as well as levies for both employees (e.g. an immigration health charge) and employers (e.g. the skills levy), and increasing application fees. There has already been an increase to UKVI fees for almost all applications on 6 April this year. This may be one of the methods that the government uses to assist with reaching its aim of reducing net migration.  

While Brexit negotiations take place, the demand for global talent will inevitably increase. When recruiting from overseas, UK businesses need to be aware of immigration laws and elect the most suitable route to facilitate work assignments or relocation to the UK. This applies to migrants from both inside and outside of the EU.    

Businesses need to be aware of the different immigration routes currently available for recruiting and retaining migrants from outside of the EU.  For example, a business may wish to fill a temporary gap in the resident labour market by way of sponsorship. To do this, the business must have a ‘Sponsor Licence’.  The process to follow to get that licence is complex and highly intrusive for a business. 

For international students with a viable UK business idea, those considering entrepreneurial opportunities in the UK, or those who can make a significant investment in the UK; they can apply for a visa under Tier 1 of the UK points based system.  Their ability to work in the UK not only promotes employment, but also increases contribution to the UK economy. Alternatively, there is family migration under the immigration rules, where partners of settled persons have no restriction on working in the UK.  

Other options for short term, more limited business activity include business visit visas, and the permitted paid engagement route for among others highly qualified academics and experts invited by higher education institutions.  Under this scheme, qualified academics and experts can come to the UK for up to a month. 

Businesses may have a significant number of EEA nationals (and/or their family members) working for them.  Such businesses should consider taking pro-active steps now to ensure that staff are aware of things that they can do to secure their status before we exit the EU.  Such measures include obtaining registration certificates, permanent residency and in some cases, British citizenship.  

Whatever direction your business decides to take, your Brexit strategy must address its potential skills gap and immigration issues.  We would always recommend that specialist legal advice is sought if a business is considering the recruitment or retention of migrants from either inside or outside of the EU. 

For more information on the issues raised above, please contact Tijen Ahmet or Rachel Harvey in our business immigration team.

"They are very professional, respond promptly, always discuss the monthly bill and have, so far, provided us with excellent advice in connection with employment issues. I have been very satisfied."

Andrew Argyle LLB, Practice Director, Potter Clarkson LLP