Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Road Haulage and Logistics Firms Need to Sign Up Those EU Staff Quickly Before Brexit

After December it May Need a Shed Load of Red Tape to Ease the Driver Shortage
Shipping News Feature

UK – While we all fuss and worry about the virus situation perhaps the eyes of logistics businesses are a little off the ball for the moment regarding another huge crisis in the making, the staff shortages, particularly in the field of road haulage drivers and warehouse assistants.

It is somewhat ironic that, at a time we are writing about the demise of hauliers and other freight related operations which may run out of funds and not survive the pandemic, and whilst simultaneously logistics is being  hailed as a saviour of society, and ecommerce becoming the normal way to shop, that post-Brexit we may see a worse employment situation than ever before.

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2019-21 is now being considered by a Public Bill Committee which will scrutinise the Bill line by line and is expected to report to the House of Commons by Thursday 25 June 2020. The Bill makes provision to end rights to free movement of persons under retained EU law and to repeal other retained EU law relating to immigration.

What this actually means is that, if the Bill goes on to receive Royal Assent, it will terminate rights to free movement for citizens of EU countries from 2021 onwards, as well as repealing other EU immigration law, and enable the introduction of a revamped ‘points-based’ immigration system for entry to the UK. Workers will require 70 points or more to be able to work in Britain.

Now for the realities of that statement. To work in the UK one would need a job offer from a Home Office approved sponsor, rated by the government at an ‘appropriate skill level’, whatever that may be. English language skills to the required standard and a salary of at least £25,600 are also required. Theoretically it is possible to enter with a salary as low as £20,480, but only if other dynamics can be ‘traded in’ e.g. a job offer in a specific shortage occupation.

Now the question is, with the HGV and LGV driver shortages everybody in the transport sector (and in government as they have been told about it hundreds of times) are aware, do those jobs qualify because the industry needs to know, and pretty damn quick? There is currently no sponsored immigration route proposed specifically for those workers who do not meet the salary or skills threshold required for the ‘skilled’ worker route.

What will gall road haulage and other logistics interests if they are prevented from employing EU (and other nationalities) is that there are plans to exempt temporary agricultural workers from the strait jacket of the system with dedicated visas available. The cynics will say it’s seemingly more important to pick the crops than to deliver them.

According to law firm Watson Farley and Williams if businesses consider that they may wish to sponsor ‘skilled’ migrants (including from the EU) from 2021, they should apply to the Home Office for a Sponsorship Licence as soon as possible. Applications pre Covid-19 typically took around eight weeks to process, so there will be no surprise if delays are even longer now.

It should be noted that an employer does not need to be a sponsor to employ a European worker with an existing right to work in the UK, and this will include any EU citizen with settled status. When hiring EU nationals not already in the UK, Watson Farley and Williams advise that employers may wish to bring forward recruitment plans to beat the 31 December 2020 cut off for EU nationals, thereby avoiding having to bring them in under the new rules which, let’s face it, are still fuzzy with regard to our industry to say the least.