Businesses are being urged to ensure their employees apply for settled status as soon as possible, or risk losing up to a fifth of their workforce, with more than a million Europeans still yet to do so.
A third of UK-based EU nationals, of which the vast majority are in employment, have failed to secure their status, with experts claiming they are being put off from applying because of confusion over salary threshold. The UK government is being urged to consider whether the deadline should be extended or dropped altogether, to avoid harming UK businesses.
New research compiled by legal charity the Aire Centre suggests factory and construction jobs are particularly dependent on EU workers, with 21 per cent of the workforce born outside of the UK in wider Europe. Retail and manufacturing will be particularly hard hit, with 50 per cent of all EU nationals working in these industries.
There is currently no salary threshold to apply for settled status in the UK. However, if the EUSS deadline is missed by lower-paid EU workers, it is predicted they may not be permitted to settle in the UK ever again, “which could be catastrophic for business and these individuals”, experts warned.
Matthew Evans, director at The Aire Centre, said: “The future salary threshold for EU nationals coming to work in post-Brexit Britain has been well publicised at a possible £30,000. For many, their income will fall below this level and understandably, they are worried about completing their applications for fear of being rejected.
“It is vital we debunk this myth, and employers take action to ensure their workers are guided through the EUSS process to secure the status and rights that they are eligible for and to prevent disruption to business operations.”
Madeleine Sumption, director at the Migration Observatory, University of Oxford, added: “The government faces a big challenge getting all EU citizens through the Settlement Scheme. Regardless of how easy it is to apply and how well the scheme is communicated, there will inevitably be people who simply don’t realise that they have to do it.
“This challenge is compounded by the fact that there are no accurate figures on how many people are eligible to apply: the most commonly used estimate of 3.4 million is almost certainly too low. So it’s possible that hundreds of thousands of EU citizens could fail to apply without this being clear from the data.
“One of the big questions for the next couple of years will therefore be whether the deadline is extended or, as some have suggested, removed entirely.”
However a Home Office spokesperson said the comments were “quite simply wrong”.
“The government has made it repeatedly clear that we want EU citizens to stay, and 2.5 million people have been granted status already,” she added.
“There is plenty of support available, and EU citizens still have well over a year left to make an application.”
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