This guidance note has been prepared to help managers provide support to members of staff from the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland and their families, as we approach Brexit.
Following the EU referendum result in June 2016, the Director-General Health and Social Care and Chief Executive of NHS Scotland, Paul Gray, wrote to all NHS Scotland Boards, emphasising the value he places on all staff, regardless of nationality. He followed this up with a further letter, in July 2017, in which he drew attention to information and guidance being made available on the Scottish Government website.
As the UK moves towards leaving the EU, we NHS Education for Scotland are committed to supporting all staff affected by Brexit. We are therefore providing this guidance to managers so that they can support EU/EEA staff and those affected by the Brexit vote.
We will provide further updates and clarity as Brexit discussions progress.
- Keeping up-to-date
NHS Scotland staff can keep up-to-date with developments around the UK-EU negotiations and EU citizens' rights by:
- Managing NHS Scotland colleagues concerned about Brexit
The outcome of the referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union is about to change the status of all non-UK EU/EEA nationals living in the UK. This has caused significant concern and distress for a considerable number of NHS Scotland staff who are directly or indirectly affected by these changes.
As a manager, you may be working with a colleague who has been affected by the EU Referendum outcome, for example:
- a non-UK EU/EEA country citizen
- a dual citizen
- an Irish, Maltese or Cypriot citizen who has a different status to other EU citizens in the UK
- a UK citizen who has close family members holding EU/EEA citizenship
- a non-UK, non-EEA citizen who is the family member of an EU/EEA citizen
Given the multitude of personal and family circumstances, you should take into account that Brexit may present different challenges or concerns for your colleagues.
How to provide support
Managers should provide appropriate support using empathy and understanding. Regular conversations between managers and staff are an opportunity to have honest and open conversations about the impact Brexit is having on them. Staff members affected by Brexit can use this time to raise any issues that they think you should be aware of and, if appropriate, address in the context of the workplace.
Processes around the EU exit settlement scheme, citizenship or immigration may be stressful and onerous for colleagues and their partners and dependants. In line with the general approach set out in the national ‘Supporting the Work Life Balance PIN policy’, managers are encouraged to take a flexible and facilitative approach in responding positively to reasonable requests from EU/EEA nationals for either annual leave or flexible working to deal with the bureaucratic elements of Brexit.
- Right to live and work in the UK - key terms
EU/EEA national colleagues obtain their right to reside/work in the UK from EU law. The UK's withdrawal from the European Union raises concerns for EU/EEA nationals because EU law will no longer apply to the UK. Many EU/EEA nationals colleagues are taking a number of steps to secure their status in the UK.
Below is an explanation of some of the key terms EU/EEA nationals may use when discussing their status:
EU/EEA nationals qualify for permanent residence after five years of living in the UK - subject to meeting certain conditions. Permanent residence gives them the right to live permanently in the UK, but can be lost if they are absent from the country for over two years.
EU Exit Settlement Scheme or ‘Settled Status’
During withdrawal negotiations, the UK and EU27 agreed a joint technical note on citizens' rights at negotiator level, reaching consensus on a number of areas. The UK plans to introduce a new settlement scheme. EU citizens and their family members wanting to remain in the UK will have to apply to get their status regularised.
It is expected that the settlement scheme process will be more user-friendly than existing processes for residence under EU law, however the scheme is not yet open.
The Home Office has announced changes for a second pilot of the EU Settlement Scheme which will include all health and social care staff in Scotland from late November this year. This is the scheme which will enable resident EU citizens and their family members to obtain the UK immigration status which they need in order to remain here permanently. Phase two of the pilot will start on 29 November 2018 at which point any eligible NES employees will be able to apply.
Those applying to the scheme will only need to take three steps:
- Prove their identity
- Show that they live in the UK
- Declare any criminal convictions
The new online application system for the scheme will be accessible through phones, tablets, laptops and computers. Please note that there is currently no action to be taken but we will update this section as further guidance becomes available.
Pilot eligibility guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eu-settlement-scheme-pilot-applicant-eligibility
A news item can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/immigration-rules-next-phase-of-eu-settlement-scheme-confirmed
After obtaining permanent residency, applicants can apply to naturalise as British citizens. This requires applicants to sit the Life in the UK Test and pass a language test, as well as collecting some documentation.
Making a residency or citizenship application can be long and time-consuming, with individuals needing to take time off to sit a test, travel to other cities (or countries) to collect documents, or attend legal appointments. There are financial implications to consider when making an application which can cause worries to members of staff and their families. For example a naturalisation application costs in excess of £1000.
- Settled status costs and documentation
The Scottish Government has committed to look to meet the cost of applying for settled status for EU citizens working in the Scottish devolved public sector. Whilst the Scottish Government's powers in relation to immigration are limited by the current constitutional arrangements, it can seek to support EU nationals working within our public services and NHS Education for Scotland as your employer will liaise with the Scottish Government and advise in due course how this will work.
The Home Office published a statement of intent in relation to the EU Settlement Scheme on 21 June. This sets out some further details of the application process, which is designed to be simple. The settled status fee will cost less than the fee for a British passport - £65 and £32.50 for children under 16. Moreover, for those who already have valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain documentation, they will be able to exchange it for free. There will be support for the vulnerable and those without access to a computer and there will be no quotas for applications. The statement advises people that they do not need to do anything just yet. The scheme will open later this year and be fully operational by 30 March 2019. The deadline for applications will be 30 June 2021.
Handling documentation requests
We will endeavour to have procedures in place in time to provide staff with the documentation they need to support any permanent residency or citizenship applications.