UK immigration changes - what do companies in the energy sector need to consider?
19 April 2021
The end of free movement of people between the UK and EU represents the single biggest change in UK immigration laws for over 40 years. With high volumes of internationally mobile employees, this will particularly impact employers in the energy sector, adding costs and administration at a time when the sector is looking to be more efficient and agile.
So what are the changes?
- New EU arrivals to the UK need a visa allowing them to work before they can travel to the UK or start employment.
- All UK employers that want to employ new EU arrivals will need a Sponsor Licence.
- UK nationals will need a work permit for whichever EU country they will be working in, with each EU country having its own distinct rules.
- Short term business visits, with UK nationals travelling to the EU (and vice versa), will be subject to restricted activities to avoid compliance issues.
The energy industry faces some additional challenges unique to the sector including:
- Offshore workers - different rules apply to individuals working on installations within 12 miles of the UK coast and those operating at 12-200 miles with cost and planning implications.
- Emergency repair crews - to avoid delays to urgent repairs, the sector needs to plan for specialists who are EU nationalists as the visa process could take several weeks.
- Rotators - certain visa categories are better suited to individuals on rotator assignments. Understanding the relevant rules will be essential in ensuring that individuals are sponsored in a compliant manner.
- Contractors - the sector is increasingly reliant on contractors yet there are limited immigration options available. Solutions can be complex and require detailed planning.
So what steps can energy companies take to minimise the immigration impact of Brexit?
- Sponsor Licences - Now is the time to get your house in order. For those employers with a Sponsor Licence, you should audit how well you are meeting your compliance requirements in anticipation of increased numbers of employees potentially requiring sponsorship. For those without a Sponsor Licence, be aware that the process can take three to four months so consider now whether you need one.
- Frontier Workers* - this route offers valuable flexibility to emergency repair crews and contractors who form key roles in the resourcing model. It can also cost significantly less than sponsored work visas.
- Business visitors - The need to plan business activities ahead of travel between the UK and EU is a behavioural shift and one that presents significant financial and reputational risks to businesses once travel resumes. We have already seen examples of employers falling foul of these rules. Now is the time to invest in a pre-assessment travel tool that can help manage business traveller risk.
Why should businesses act now?
With only a limited window to benefit from obtaining Frontier Worker permits, businesses should put these at the forefront of your planning. More widely, factoring in costs and processing times will be key to your longer term planning.
With business travel likely to be much reduced at present, now is the perfect time to review your existing business traveller processes and systems. And to help businesses navigate this process, there are a number of pre-travel assessment tools available such as our myTrips and myAtlas technology.
If you would like to get in touch to discuss any of the topics above, please reach out to Matt Lynch.
* individuals who are resident overseas but have acquired free movement rights owing to past work in the UK