The Government Equalities Office has been tasked with examining the growing evidence that EU nationals are being illegally prevented from getting jobs following reports of job adverts that clearly specify that those applying must have British citizenship.
Possibly the employers posting those adverts may genuinely have misunderstood the effect of the Brexit vote on the eligibility of EU nationals to work in the UK but they may have been put off hiring EU nationals due to the uncertainty regarding their status?
Those employers are risking claims of direct race discrimination and adverse publicity.
The government’s “offer” to EU citizens in the UK has been publicised as part of the exit negotiations. It includes affording EU citizens who have been in the UK continuously for more than five years the right to apply for “settled status”. This will be a new creation and will mean that the individual is free to live in the UK in any capacity, undertake lawful activity, access public funds and services and apply for British citizenship (after six years). Those who already have Home Office residence documents will also need to apply for settled status but under a more streamlined process. (Family dependents here before the exit from the EU will also be able to apply).
In addition, EU nationals who arrive in the UK before a cut-off date (which is to be determined) but who have not been here for five years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the five-year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
After the cut-off date, new arrivals will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under future immigration arrangements.
Although the cut-off date is a matter of negotiation it won’t be earlier than 29 March 2017 (the date Article 50 was triggered) or later than the date the UK leaves the EU.
So, for a recruiting employer it is “business as usual”. In the meantime, you might start reassuring your EU nationals of their importance and your desire to retain them. You may go further and see what support you can give people with form filling and getting the documentation they’ll need to make applications.