Logistics businesses will be expected to check the right to work of their EU national employees both during the transition period and after Brexit despite there being no system in place to carry out the checks, the Freight Transport Association is warning.
The FTA is concerned by evidence recently given by Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes MP, to the Home Affairs Select Committee looking at Brexit preparations.
Ms Nokes said: “In the intervening period of any transition period it will be incredibly difficult to differentiate between an EU citizen here for the first time, for example, and somebody who has been here for a significant period of time and hasn’t yet applied for their settled status but would be perfectly entitled to it if they were to.”
When quizzed further Nokes said that they did not know how employers will be able to check those EU citizens yet to apply for settled status.
The FTA said no system currently exists to carry out these checks, and as a result, industry will be held responsible for conducting the lengthy processes required to avoid prosecution and removal of illegal workers.
EU nationals currently make up 12% of the UK’s logistics workforce with significant numbers of vacancies already existing within key roles such as lorry drivers and warehouse staff.
The FTA said the loss of the EU workforce could be “catastrophic” for the flow of goods and services to the nation’s businesses and employers.
Sally Gilson, FTA’s Head of Skills, said: “It is simply unacceptable that, with only five months to go until the UK is set to leave the EU, there is still no viable system in place which can provide employers with the information they need over workers’ status,”
“For some time, FTA has been expressing concern over the legality of allowing EU workers to keep working in the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit: a verbal promise guaranteeing rights is not legally binding. Ms Nokes’ appearance in front of the Select Committee has created further concerns throughout the sector about whether business can continue to rely on these vital workers to keep the UK’s supply chain moving.”
Gilson continued: “Asking employers to prove the right to work status of their workforce, despite assurances in the summer that this would not be needed, is simply unacceptable. While logistics as a sector is notoriously good at adapting to change, this additional burden will make it very difficult indeed to keep the supply chain running smoothly at a time when there will be added pressures from new trading conditions, declarations and other processes to adopt.
“The whole situation is shocking and almost farcical: we are now less than five months from Brexit and employers will affectively be asked to check right to work for employees without a mechanism to do so.”
She added: “Any issues around the right to work in the UK have to be resolved now – otherwise employers could easily deem EU nationals too risky to employ.”
Posted on: November 1st 2018