September 12, 2017

Post-Brexit, Employers Need to be Careful they do not Discriminate Against EU Workers

Campaigners have raised concerns that employers, businesses and landlords are responding to the Brexit narrative by discriminating against EU citizens here in the UK.

Many examples collected by EU-citizen campaign group the3million which can at best be attributed to ignorance, and include:

  • An advert for a graduate sales executive in Bristol specifying German language skills but restricting the job to full UK passport holders
  • An advert for a Solihull-based research job with an international management consultancy that specified the “candidate must have the right to stay and work permanently in the UK, and a valid UK passport”
  • A job recovering hire cars from France and Spain and delivering them back to Britain restricted to UK passport holders only

Understandably employers are concerned that their investment in recruiting and training employees is protected, and as Brexit has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the future of the labour market they may inadvertently find themselves on the wrong side of the law if they use tactics to avoid or discourage EU applicants for jobs.

For those in doubt it is important to remember it is currently unlawful to discriminate against job applicants on the basis of where they were born or their nationality, whether they are from the EU or elsewhere.

This will remain the case even after Brexit.

Discrimination awards are uncapped in the Employment Tribunal, and let’s remind ourselves also that now a Claimant no longer has to pay a fee to bring a Tribunal claim against an employer.

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Conversely, employers have for many years carried the burden of conducting Right to Work checks and face larger fines and imprisonment if they hire workers who cannot legally work in the UK under tougher new Immigration regulations and enforcement.

So what are worried employers supposed to do?

  • Make sure you train any hiring managers in your organisation on how to comply with Right to Work obligations without discriminating against non-UK workers
  • Ensure that you regularly train everyone on Equality and Diversity in the workplace and that you keep records. This may be your only defence if a claim is lodged for discrimination by someone who works for you
  • Educate non-UK workers about the various schemes available which entitle them to remain and work in the UK

Always seek advice on any employment situation about which you are unsure – ignorance of the law is not a defence.

The UK has flourished because of the immigrant population and has enjoyed hundreds of years of trade and growth as a Commonwealth, EU and global entity. Keeping them in the workforce is vital in the present moment, and will remain so even after we officially complete the Brexit process.

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About the author

Lisa Gillespie

About the author

Lisa Gillespie

Over 20 years Lisa has acted as a consultant and adviser on many HR issues and employment tribunals across public, private and third sector organisations. She has worked in most UK local authority areas on projects ranging from social care and health to training and conciliation arrangements. Lisa studied psychology before moving into employment law and HR after further study at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Salford, and she is also qualified in project management and counselling.

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