Event Summary: Latest updates on the impacts of Brexit and Covid-19
With a Brexit deal complete and Covid-19 continuing to impact travel plans, K2 provided an informative global mobility webinar to keep everyone updated on the latest updates from across the industry. The webinar covered key updates in Shipping, Destination Services, Immigration and Advisory (finding a pathway through).
We know it's hard filtering the unlimited volume of changing information - so hopefully this informative webinar led by K2 experts helped all the attendees to feel organised and informed.
For a summary of the key takeaways from this final session, please see below.
For this session, updates were provided by the following K2 subject matter experts:
- Rob Lamb, European Commercial Coordinator and K2 Brexit Preparedness Lead
- Ken McCully, Group Commercial Manager
- Jesper Albrekt, Global Immigration Manager
- Simon Higson and Sandra Toppin, UK Immigration Managers
- Deborah Murphy, Advisory Services Consultant
The session was facilitated by Huw Thomas, UK Business Development Manager, who welcomed the attendees, provided an introduction, and fielded questions at the end.
Rob began the presentations by giving an overview of what we have been experiencing in the world of shipping, post Brexit. Rob explained that as expected, documents are needed for shipments to clear customs coming in and out of the UK. Delays that were previously 2-3 hours long, are now several hours. These delays are largely due to the new procedures at ports, paperwork mishaps, and some recent computer glitches.
We predict that for shipments going into Europe from the UK, an extra day is needed to be factored into the planning. Rob explained that in recent shipments to France, this was the additional time frame we were experiencing. Rob reassured the attendees that K2 are working with clients to make sure all shipments have the correct paperwork, insurances and necessary travel passes, and are constantly reviewing the situation to find workable solutions when needed. For example, we can amend travel times and storage of shipments to ensure the shipment goes as smoothly as possible- and this will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Ken then also gave an update regarding shipping, and the impacts that we have seen due to Covid-19. Ken noted how a major change we are experiencing is the need for crew members to provide a negative Covid-19 test ahead of travel. Dover has a testing facility; however, we are advising our partners to get tested before arriving in Dover, in order to ensure they are able to travel, and ensure a smooth shipment.
Ken also explained how K2 have amended our working practices in order to keep our crew and clients safest. For example, where possible K2 have been performing virtual surveys, all crew members are using full PPE, trucks are cleaned daily, and the number of people on site is always minimal, and we have been using Covid-19 self-declaration forms to ensure everyone that is working together (both clients and partners) are being as safe and cautious as possible.
The session then heard from Jose, who gave an overview on destination services and how they have been affected by Brexit and Covid-19.
Jose highlighted how many destination services have now adopted a virtual approach where possible due to travel restrictions stopping assignees being able to travel, and country regulations. Namely, School Search and Orientations have moved largely online- and K2 can provide these services via video. Where services are going ahead in person, we are making sure that safety is a priority and covid-19 regulations are being abided by at all times. With regard to restrictions, when we are working with assignees who have arrived in a country that requires a period of quarantine, we are strongly advising that these individuals do not break quarantine to visit properties and starting to search for homes- despite understandable temptations!
With temporary housing, we have seen a reduction in available stock due to the pandemic. Temporary housing stock has reduced, because of the lower demand. Serviced apartments are being released into the open market for longer term rentals, which affects the availability of properties for relocating assignees. K2 have also adapted the service offering to those moving into temporary accommodations during this time to make life easier for the assignee, things such as food welcome packs and suggestions of food delivery websites.
In terms of Brexit, timings have been affected, as moves have been largely put on hold or reduced. What we may expect is a high volume of moves over a short period of time, which may lead to property availability shortages. We will be working with partners to manage capacity issues as much as possible.
On a positive note, the UK is now once again issuing National Insurance Numbers got EU Nationals. We are seeing that spousal visas are being delayed, which means that these individuals are not then passing the right to rent checks. There are workarounds, such as signing the lease in the name of the assignee, with the spouse at the property as a visitor, until the visa has been issued, and then the lease can be amended.
Jose noted that K2 are keeping abreast of the ongoing changes and updates and will be liaising with clients and partners to ensure everyone is up to date and aware of the developing situation.
Jesper Albrekt, gave an update on the US election and travel bans, Brexit, and Covid-19.
To start, Jesper highlighted that with Joe Biden taking office we are already starting to see some global immigration policy changes. Notably, the ‘Muslim travel ban’ has been revoked, and reinstated the travel ban against travellers from much of the Europe, South Africa, and Brazil. We can expect plenty more immigration policy changes from the new administration.
With regards to Brexit, Jesper highlighted that UK Nationals are no longer EU citizens, and do not hold work rights, and will need work permissions in order to work in EU countries. Any exceptions need to be thoroughly reviewed as they will occur on a case-by-case basis. Jesper noted that when it comes to travel and work trips, travellers have likely not been experiencing these restrictions that much due to Covid-19, which is keeping most people in Europe at home right now.
Additionally, as Covid-19 continues to disrupt travel globally, Jesper explained that countries across the globe continue to battle with the virus, and although we now have a promising vaccine in the pipeline, we should not expect borders to open immediately following vaccinations. For example, Singapore considers the vaccinations to be just another tool in fighting against the virus, however being vaccinated will not mean all the borders will open. We should not expect global travel to resume to pre-Covid volume and ease, despite the positive progression of the vaccine, the situation remains globally complex.
Jesper concluded by recapping how important it is for all global mobility professionals, and service providers such as K2, to remain flexible and treat each case individually- especially within immigration and encouraged everyone to stay cautiously optimistic about the coming months.
The session then heard a from Sandra and Simon who gave an update on UK Immigration.
Sandra covered the impacts of Brexit, the New Points Based System, and the Sponsor Management System. Sandra reminded everyone that from the 1st of January 2021, free movement ended between the UK and the EU, and now EU citizens need permissions to work in the UK. EU Nationals who were in the UK before the 31st of December 2020 will qualify for the EU Settlement Scheme and have until 30th June 2021 to do this - and will obtain a pre-settled or settled status. We are advising that clients keep sending out communications and reminders to all EU employees, reminding them to apply for the scheme, however employers are not allowed to ask for evidence that the application has been made- until after the 30th of June.
Sandra also highlighted that visa applications are open for those who want to come to the UK from to work under the New Points Based System. This system is for everyone outside of the UK, and each individual must obtain 70 points to obtain a work visa.
Sandra also covered the Sponsorship Licence and highlighted that all companies who currently hold a sponsorship licence, will have received a notice explaining that certificates are due to expire on 5th April 2021, unless you are in for an automatic renewal. We are advising that all clients review their business requirements and confirm the number of certificates needed. If you have any employees who will need a Tier 2 ICT between the 6th April 2021 and the 5th April 2022, you will need to apply for a Sponsorship Licence.
For more information on Brexit and how K2 can assist you, please visit our Brexit page.
Simon Higson then also gave an update on UK Immigration with regards to Covid-19. Due to Covid-19, the Home Office have issued a variety of concessions. For example, if you are sponsoring employees who are working from home due to the pandemic, this does not have to be reported to the Home Office. Similarly, absences do not need to be reported if they extend beyond 4 weeks because of Covid-19, however all other changes to working practices needs to be reported as usual.
If your employees are experiencing a loss of income due to coronavirus, up to January 21, the Home Office will consider employment income for the period immediately before that loss of income, provided the income was met for at least six months, immediately before the income was lost. Also, salary that is being reduced, because your furloughed, the Home Office, will take into account as though you are earning 100% your salary, as before the furlough.
If you have people with you currently here on temporary visas, the Home Office do expect them to make reasonable steps to the UK. Where possible, before their visa expires, or to regularise it in another way by making an application from within the UK.
Moving overseas, when you are applying for a visa to come to the UK, normally, you need to make an application in your home country, but at the moment you can apply for a visit visa from any country, under the Visa Application Center, for that particular country you are visiting. However, normally, you should apply for any other UK work visa from your home.
In addition, if you've been issued a 90-day visa to come to the UK, if you can't come to the UK before the visa expires, you will now have to apply and pay £154 to have that visa renewed. It was free before the end of the last year, but now you have to pay the fee. We strongly advise that you shouldn't apply for the visa until you are confident, that you come to the UK.
Simon concluded by noting that concessions and regulations are changing all the time, so K2 are continuously checking in with the Home Office and keeping abreast of the seemingly moving targets and we are advising clients on moves on a case by case basis.
The session then heard from Deborah, who spoke to the group about a recent tool developed for navigating a pathway through this time, and then the expectations that we may have had for 2021, versus the realities.
To start, Deborah touched upon the Global Mobility Risk Assessment Pathway, a tool that K2 developed last year to navigate the risks of international working. The tool has been designed to assist identifying potential issues and aiding decision making in a Covid-19 world. Deborah explained that the pathway is used to form a decision on initiating a new international assignment or the re-initiation of a paused or postponed international assignment.
Deborah then explored the comparison between what we expected of 2021, and what the realities may be. Did we expect global travel to adopt a ‘bigger and better’ approach this year, post-pandemic, and is this a feasible reality? Deborah noted how uncertainty still prevails as the world has not yet opened up.
In terms of planning for assignments or travel in 2021, Deborah highlighted how it is more important than ever to keep having conversations with the business to truly understand the needs, whether the needs have changes, whether alternative resourcing options are available, whether instead of delaying assignments, the assignment can be adjusted, and whether a virtual assignment would be appropriate.
The session concluded with a live Q&A. To view a summary of the questions, please see below.
Can you tell me how long applications for a Sponsor Licence are taking currently and can you help with an application?
Yes, we have extensive experience of completing and showing all the documentation for Sponsorship license applications, so yes, we can do this for you. Now, because the license applications have increased due to the new points-based system, they are now taking between 8 to 12 weeks.
Will employers have to have the EU settlement scheme evidence on file for people they have employed prior to 1 Jan 2021 or just those hired after 1st Jan 21 or 30th June 21?
Yes. From the first of July, you'll need to evidence all EU nationals.
How do we check right to work documents when a new employee is working from home?
With HR documents, you need to keep documents on file for new employees that start with company. So, before you would do that face-to-face. But now, because of working from home, you can do this by video chat, obtain a copy of documents they have. And then have a video conference with the individual and they can hold up their original documents. You will then sign the copies that you have confirming that you have verified and seen an original document via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, however you hold the video call- you date it and sign it, print your name and keep that on file.
We are here to help in any way we can
Should you need any additional information, consultation, or guidance on any of the above, please do contact us as we would be delighted to assist you.
Additionally, if you would like to have a virtual coffee with any of our experts, please contact us we would be happy to arrange this.