Settle Status: EU Workforce
Do you have employees from the EU working within your business? Changes to the law may mean that they have to reapply to secure their residency status with the new EU Settle Status.
To make this transition period easier, we’ll be stepping you through what you need to know as an employer to support the welfare of these employees in such indefinite times.
What is the EU Settle Status?
On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union. Although no official deal has been agreed upon yet, changes have started to slowly filter through – one of the largest being ‘Settled Status’.
But what is settled status and why does it matter?
Settled status is the term for being a resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of your stay. There are two types of status in the EU Settlement Scheme:
- Settled status
- Pre-settled status
EU citizens who are granted settled status are permitted to stay in the UK as long as they choose; they can also apply for a British citizenship if they are eligible.
Pre-settled status – which is usually granted to those who have not lived in the UK for five continuous years – allows inhabitants to stay in the UK for a further five years from the date they are granted pre-settled status. After this period, individuals can reapply for full settled status.
The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.
It is free to apply to the scheme through the government website.
Before beginning the application process for settlement status, applicants should have ready proof of identity and residency. It may also be worth double-checking that applicants have not already received pre-agreed settle status here.
What does this mean for employees?
Citizens of the EU, EEA or Switzerland can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. Without confirmed settlement status, these citizens will not have the assumed right to:
- Work in the UK
- Use the NHS for free
- Enrol in education (or continue studying)
- Access public funds, such as benefits (if eligible)
- Enter the UK without a visa
Employees that do not have settled status face the potential risk of having paperwork refused, being unable to work legally in the UK and even deportation – uprooting their family, career and life.
Therefore, it is important to support your EU workforce through their application to ensure there is no disruption to their legal right to work or live in the UK after this deadline.
How can employers help?
Importance of application:
As employers, there is no legal requirement to inform your workforce of the impending deadline but it’s a good idea to ensure there are no legal hiccups (and it also feels like the right thing to do).
Employers do not require proof that employees have applied but getting status through the scheme will protect their future rights, so it is very important that they apply if you want them to continue working for you.
There are a few practical steps you can take to encourage your employees to apply.
Why not start by sending a letter to all your EU employees? It doesn’t have to take much time with letter templates already drafted up and ready to go. You can also ensure visual cues help prompt their minds by displaying informative posters.
Remember: although you can encourage people to apply, as an employer, you cannot ask them whether they have or about the outcome.
Supporting the process itself:
The process itself was designed to be as seamless as possible. However, with the added complication of coronavirus, a few spanners have been thrown in the works.
Due to many businesses being shut for a number of months and international travel complications, employees may have struggled to renew expiring passports. Therefore, workers may require flexible hours or additional holiday days to address this before their application.
Further, it may be useful to make your facilities available for support. For example, at this time, many printing shops and internet cafes are shut due to the pandemic. Therefore, pre-granting access for your employees to use your scanner, printer or work phone for their application may aid their progress.
Finally, although it is not standard procedure, if the employee requires any documentation to support their application then provide this in a timely manner; holding this process up will cause additional stress for the employee, distracting them from their work and prolonging indecision.
The uncertainty formed in the last few months has had an impact on everyone. However, we must consider those who experience further doubt about their rights within the country compassionately.
Managing stress and keeping a close eye on employees is essential at all times. Look out for key indicators of deteriorating wellbeing, such as:
- Reduced engagement
- Missed deadlines
- Lower morale
- Increased tiredness
If you notice a significant shift in their wellbeing, it may be time to check in; look out for tell-tale signs of poor employee mental health and be ready to act.
Where possible, refer employees for additional support and be compassionate towards their situation. It may be worth considering ways you can support employees with stress outside of work with flexible working, duvet days or even a shift in the workplace culture.
The charity MIND has some great, free resources to help individuals manage stress – at work and home. Could sharing some of their best resources equip your taskforce with more resilience?
Considering your current employees is a great first step, but what about future employees?
If you are planning on recruiting before the settlement deadline, it’s important that you don’t sit on your hands.
Speeding up your recruitment process will allow your business to:
- Beat the deadline;
- Widen your search for talent;
- Allow the successful candidate (if from the EU) to apply for settlement status in time.
As an employer, you have a duty “not to discriminate against EU citizens in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU as both a prospective and current employer”.
That means that you cannot make an offer of employment, or continued employment, dependent on an individual having made an application. However, consideration should not stop here; ensure you address workplace discrimination at all levels for a safe working environment for all.
- Checking your processes and procedures for bias
- Educating employees on how to report discrimination
- Including EU citizens in your diversity reports
- Reminding employees of the fine line between ‘banter’ and discriminatory harassment
- Ensuring you have the processes in place to address hostility appropriately
Right to work checks:
It has been confirmed that there will be no change to right to work checks until 1 January 2021. That means that job applicants can continue to prove their right to work using any of the following:
- their valid passport or national identity card if they’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen
- their valid biometric residence card if they’re a non-EU, EEA or Swiss citizen family member
- their status under the EU Settlement Scheme using the Home Office’s online right to work checking service.
You will not be required to undertake retrospective checks on existing EU employees. Therefore, changes will only apply to applications in the new year.
For more information, read the official right to work checklist here.
For official support on how employers should support the EU Settle Status scheme, GOV have created an ‘employer toolkit’ here.
However, if you require expert HR support and consultancy, please get in touch.
Clarity Beats Uncertainty
Remember that round: ‘What Happens Next’ from a Question of Sport?
At the moment, we are all asking that question constantly…
- What changes will there be to lockdown restrictions?
- Will any uptick in revenue stall?
- Will people be able to pay me for work done?
So, to combat all this uncertainty we can at least ensure that we have clarity of where we need to be and the impact of missing or achieving those targets. This way, we can act fast to address any issues – being proactive with cost-cutting, additional funding or growth planning, as required.
When meeting regularly with my clients we look at certain key targets to help them know where they need to be. Let’s take a little look at what these are.
Understanding breakeven will highlight a good from a bad month.
If you are making profits it will trigger a need to ring fence monies for future corporation tax. If you are making losses, then you need to understand the impact on retained earnings (i.e. the profits you have built up over the years).
This is particularly relevant if you take part of your income as dividends. Dividends can only be taken where there are sufficient retained earnings and repeated losses will erode this and so you will need to monitor your position.
Knowing your breakeven will ensure you don’t get to year end without either sufficient provision for corporation tax or having taken illegal dividends.
2. Cashflow Neutral
The income you require to be cash neutral each month may well be higher than your breakeven. This might be due to loan repayments or if you take some of your income through dividends.
Knowing this straight away will help you understand if your bank balance will start reducing and immediately by how much. Clients may not pay straight away but already you have the insight as to how much your cashflow will be impacted even after all invoices are paid.
We also look at the capacity that the current workforce can deliver in terms of income.
This helps in two ways.
Too much resource:
Firstly, we can understand if we have too much resource for current levels of income and assess how long we can support this.
Not enough resource:
Secondly, and on a more positive note, we can see as the business grows when we will need more resource. We can assess whether to employ or outsource and we can do this in advance of hitting capacity thus ensuring service levels are maintained.
4. Bank Balance
Many clients start off thinking just monitoring their bank balance is sufficient.
I can see why they think this way, but this just tells you the here and now and doesn’t help anticipate the impact of loss-making months now. With many businesses having recently taken out Bounce Back Loans their bank balances are currently quite healthy and can, in fact, be masking issues for later down the road.
So, in summary, to grasp back some of that certainty, ask yourself if you know these three figures. With our environment being so uncertain, you at least know where you need to be and the impact of falling short or exceeding it – because clarity beats uncertainty.
About Helen Fleet:
Helen Fleet of HF Financial Strategy works as a Finance Director and guides companies to deliver their financial and business objectives. This can include cashflow planning, pricing reviews and ways to improve profitability.
For more information about HF Financial Strategy, visit her website here or discover more of her guest blogs here.
Did you attend our presentation earlier this month – designed to help SMEs in the construction industry? Below, we share the slides in case you missed it or you;d like to recap the key points!
More than a band-aid
Six months ago, businesses were forced to migrate to a new way of working almost overnight as we were urged to stay home to contain the virus. Although many businesses adapted well and remote working became commonplace, the process was rushed – driven by panic and spurred by the need to survive.
These fixes were never built to last.
As we look forward, it seems that remote working is here to stay – with many businesses challenging more traditional setups and looking to ditch or reduce their office overheads. But to be successful long-term, more structure and investment is required – particularly in the effort required to maintain a positive employee connection that transcends distance.
So, how can you keep your team engagement and morale high when working conditions are somewhat different to what you’ve been used to? We discuss this and more, with example to the drawbacks and how to address these going forward.
Leading from the front
Winckworth Sherwood found that 78% of employers are planning on “long-term operational changes” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 9% considering closing their offices completely
- 26% considering reducing their office space
- 47% increasing flexibility around working from home
- 38% increasing flexibility around set working hours
With huge businesses such as BT and Twitter making the offer to employees to permanently choose how they work it feels like we’re on the precipice of a huge cultural shift.
But, with change comes new challenges. What are the issues associated with managing people from afar and how can you look after your staff when you can’t see them? Let’s take a look.
Overcoming barriers to remote working
On the surface, remote working sounds great. It can help employers lure in exceptional talent, reduce office costs, chat and distractions and your employees will relish in their newfound sense of freedom – working how and when they work best.
So, what’s with all the reluctancy and why are some so keen to get back to the office?
Whilst working from home is popular right now, there must be some consideration into the long-term consequences that will begin to appear in the not so distant future.
At this time of great upheaval, we’re going to steer you through some of the HR issues that arise when working from home – with some thought-provoking insight and direction on how to mitigate any hurdles. So, let’s dive in.
Negative impacts on employee wellbeing
It is reported that 62% of employees would be “happy” if their offices closed and working from home became a permanent setup. But that leaves a good proportion of the workforce unhappy with this situation.
There are many reasons this may be, as the office can provide benefits for employees including:
- Social interaction
- Support – personally and professionally
- Routine and a change of scenery
- A place to focus without distractions, such as childcare
- Relief from home pressures, such as strained relationships
So, without the face-to-face interaction you’re used to, how can you look after employees? Be sure to look a little closer for the signs of someone struggling, including reduced engagement or participation, missed deadlines or overdoing their hours. These may be an indication that an employee’s mental health is declining.
To combat this, consider:
- Regular team meetings at a coffee shop or co-working space (when safe to do so)
- Making support digital, such as posting self-help and advice on the intranet
- Setting up support groups, buddy systems and social nights
- Encouraging employees to log their hours
- Reminding employees of their line manager
There is some stipulation that the increase in remote working will lead to a more unjust workplace. So how can you play fair in an increasingly competitive environment?
Say there’s a big promotion coming up. Who will be seen more favourably for the leg up: an employee who is frequently present and visible within the office or a team member that may be less well-known working from home?
There’s a great possibility that a two-tier workforce will soon be established – dividing those that come into work and those that don’t. And, with childcare being a key draw for remote working, women are likely to be most affected by this, causing the gender pay gap to be even further widened.
Other concerns include wages being driven down – due to reduced travel expenses, outsourcing and increased competition. Although it’s understandable for businesses to try and reduce costs, this will further suppress our economy and lead your customers to also look for the cheapest option.
Therefore, is leaning towards this remote workforce just a way of shooting ourselves in the foot? Honestly, we can’t tell you how to run your business. However, to stay mindful, take five to contemplate the following…
- Creating a fair criterion for the recruitment process
- Annually publishing your gender pay report
- Actively planning to reduce any variance found [see above]
- Mapping your pay against GDP and inflation
A huge 46% of HR decision makers are concerned that employees won’t be able to carry out their jobs effectively at home. However, almost half this number of employees have the same concern. So why is this?
A great way to measure whether employees can work effectively at home is to determine what ‘effective’ means to you; take some time to document what a ‘good’ job done looks like.
- Outcome-based measurement
- Clear communication
- Realistic deadlines
- Regular reviews
By measuring outcomes, rather than hours spent in the office, you can then begin to measure whether an employee is effectively working at home or not. Be sure to provide clarity on objectives, detail what is expected from employees and what they need to achieve and by when.
If you have not done the role yourself, you may find it useful to have a discussion with employees to discuss what is reasonable within their time constraints. After all, overly ambitious targets often turn employees off and lead to a decline in motivation, job satisfaction and mental health.
Lack of control (trust)
By having employees under their roof, many employers feel as if they can control their employees better. At the end of the day, the issue is: do you trust your employees?
Failure to trust your employees can lead to wasted time on micromanagement, a reluctancy to take ownership of responsibilities and a reduction in engagement and job satisfaction – with employees viewing ‘spying’ negatively. Trust them too much and you risk them feeling lost or taking advantage.
Therefore, it may reassure you to learn that only 12% of employees struggle to motivate themselves. In fact, employees that work from home tend to work harder due to concerns that it will be perceived negatively or that their privileges will be revoked.
To combat this, consider:
- Learning what makes employees tick and ensuring they feel supported
- Checking in regularly to monitor and ensure progress
- Clearly communicating expectations
- Set meetings and PDRs to review progress and rectify any issues.
We anticipate that AI and monitoring will be stepped up in the months to come. In fact, it’s already happening before our very eyes!
Employees can no longer log in early, collect the kids from school and pretend they were working all along. Technology can now determine when you touch your keypad and will alert your manager if you haven’t been active.
Your emails may be monitored too – determining your intentions and engagement by unpicking what and how you word your emails.
So, with monitoring expected to greatly increase, how can we avoid upsetting employees?
To avoid upset, consider:
- Being transparent about how technologies works
- Explaining why it has been put in place
- Outlining how technology will be used (eg, in PDRs)
- Addressing any concerns that employees may have.
Remember: any worker that has been with you for at least 26 weeks automatically gains the right to apply for flexible working. If you deem it appropriate to grant requests and feel this will not impact the individual’s ability to perform, this may provide a more open solution that will stop employees feeling the need to deceive their employer.
Need more help?
If you are considering whether a return to the office is essential, safe and mutually agreed, check out the CIPD’s useful resource here. It helps point you towards some useful resources and raises some poignant questions.
If you need some support adjusting to remote working and require some assistance motivating and engaging your employees, get in touch with Crosse HR.
Our experts offer shrewd HR solutions that won’t break the bank. Discover more today.
In March, the general workforce was urged to work from home where possible – to help control the spread of coronavirus. However, despite the guidelines easing in recent weeks, many businesses are yet to make their big return to the office.
Office to Let
It appears that months of enforced working from home has led a number of businesses to consider whether to return to the office at all.
From a financial point of view, it seems like a pretty easy case to weigh up – property costs vs no property costs. However, it’s important to consider the financial impacts of other factors which arise from relinquishing office space.
So, let’s dive in.
Let’s start with the savings: –
Saving the obvious pennies
There is no denying the obvious and giving up your office will save you direct property costs such as rent, rates and insurance as well as direct travel costs (Petrol, train fare etc).
Saving the not so obvious pennies
Aside from those, it will also save you a few pennies elsewhere such as in personal spend with no posh sandwiches and those little trips into town. Saving on travel time should also mean you are less tired from commuting and as a result will likely be more productive during working hours.
What does this mean?
All the above can amount to some serious cash and a large percentage of monthly overheads, they are easy to measure and you will see the cash impact from day one of being office free.
So, can the costs really balance out those savings?
This is not an exhaustive list but factors to consider should include:
As a simple example I use excel a lot (and I mean a lot) and whilst I’ve attended courses, I have learnt the most from my colleagues, their tricks and tips have saved me hours. Sitting next to someone and seeing how they work, how they approach projects and achieve good results can’t all be taught in training courses. Trying to monetise the benefit of being around others is tricky but consider how your team has improved over time due to informal guidance from their colleagues.
Faced with a tricky task or issue, how long will someone spend trying to solve it before it moves from being a useful exercise for them to try to problem solve and become a waste of time. People are more likely to turn to the person in the same room quicker than they are to pick up the phone. The cost of this may be loss of productive time or it may be that the solution reached is not right for your client.
There is no denying some people love to work alone but many of us crave the company of others (and perhaps more so after the last six months). Consider the impact on staff retention if you were to tell everyone to work from home full time from now on. Not everyone has a home conducive to home working – they have made do whilst it has been enforced but it will not be the long-term choice of everyone. The costs of replacing staff are significant including recruitment time, recruitment fees, loss of productivity of the leaver and time to integrate the new starter.
We can zoom and MS Teams all day long but it’s much harder to gauge staff wellbeing through a computer screen. Being with your people and supporting them where necessary will ensure your staff are productive, less likely to need time off and again promote that staff retention figure.
What does this mean?
Unlike the savings element, each of these options are far harder to put a monetary value on – but each one of them will cost you money and time if the balance isn’t right.
Half and Half
The consensus is that a hybrid is needed to suit the needs of the employees but also to balance cashflow pressures in a time when we are recovering from lockdown.
The good news is that good landlords are moving with the times and see the need to move away from strict six- or twelve-month contracts. Some city centre landlords offering three or five days per week options and the flexibility is clearly there.
It really is too easy to look at property costs as the saving and not consider the other significant impacts which in time will too impact your cashflow.
Want to Learn More?
Helen Fleet of HF Financial Strategy works as a Finance Director. She guides companies to deliver their financial and business objectives, which can include cashflow planning, pricing reviews and ways to improve profitability.
If you’d like to discover more about remote working and the HR considerations you should be making, be sure to check out our latest blog: Remote Working – Connection That Transcends Distance.