Employment rights charity the Work Rights Centre has just published a report examining the ongoing challenges created by the EU Settlement Scheme. Two months after the deadline,they are still putting EU+ nationals’ lives on hold, and require urgent action!
The EU Settlement scheme officially closed for applications on 30th June 2021. Since then, frontline advisers in London have heard from 165 people, contacting them to report delays, difficulties in proving their status, and even to make late applications.
The report, titled ‘Lives on Hold’ is one of a number published by a small consortium of charities including the3million and Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit. It highlights several worrying trends that Work Rights Centre front-line advisers have noticed, and suggests remedial actions to be taken by the Home Office, local councils and employers.
Despite the Home Office specifying that new right-to-work checks were only necessary for applicants recruited from 01 July 2021, ‘Lives on Hold’ argues that employers have been carrying out retrospective checks on current employees, often singling out EU nationals.
Another serious issue concerns the backlog of EUSS applications still to be processed. In just eight weeks since the transition to new immigration checks, 7 people contacted the Work Rights Centre to report a loss of work security. The charity’s director, Dr Dora-Olivia Vicol, commented: “Those with pending status are being put at a disadvantage. Although they should all receive a Certificate of Application (COA), which can be used to show employers that their application is pending, people who submitted their EUSS applications on paper can end up waiting much longer for this, leaving them in limbo in the meantime.
“Even when a COA is available, it can be difficult to retrieve and complicated to use. To verify the right to work of someone whose application is pending via the Employer Checking Service, employers need to take more time, input more details, and wait longer for an update from the Home Office. For many of them, this may look like too much work, and lead them to penalise or exclude EU+ nationals from employment.
“There are serious repercussions to the inability to prove one’s status. One of our beneficiaries lost her job at a care home, as she was unable to provide a COA and her employer ran out of patience. Another, a construction worker, had a week’s wages withheld by an employment agency.”
The Work Rights Centre has also begun to receive calls for help from people whose applications have been refused. As many as 11 people contacted advisers about this. Two among them were children, whose applications were rejected even when their parents’ weren’t.
The risk of rejection appears to be particularly high for people who arrived in the UK towards the end of 2020. In theory, all EU+ citizens who were physically in the country before the end of free movement on 31 December 2021 were eligible to apply to the EUSS. In reality, however, those who arrived closest to the end of the year are facing an uphill battle to access their rights, due to a paucity of evidence.
Vicol explains: “Having arrived during a national lockdown, where face-to-face appointments for GP or school registration were difficult, if not impossible, many EU+ citizens are struggling to provide ‘sufficient’ proof. In one case, a child’s application was rejected after his Boarding Pass dated in December was deemed unsatisfactory by Home Office caseworkers. To make the application stronger, we were told, the parents would have to call the airline (at rates of £1.45/a minute), and get them to write a cover letter, noting that the child was also physically on the plane.”
Another unusual trend is the increasing reliance on paid ‘advisers’, sometimes professional, other times constituted by amateurs. Andrei Savitski, an adviser with the charity, commented: “There’s a whole market of consultants who make a business of securing people’s right to reside. Without questioning their professionalism, it is regrettable that people should have to pay these sums for something that should be their right. In a kinder world, this type of help would be available to all”.
The full report, along with the charity’s recommendations to the Home Office, local councils and employers, can be accessed here: https://www.workrightscentre.org/media/1171/lives-on-hold.pdf