EU Nationals working in the community & voluntary sector

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2017 Community Service Group Conference
8 November 2016

After the result of the Remain/Leave vote on 23 June 2016 the future of over 3 million people with the right to live in the United Kingdom was suddenly cast into doubt. The total number may be higher if their family members (spouses, parents, others) from outside the EU is taken into account. The current population of the United Kingdom is over 65m meaning these EEA (European Economic Area) citizens make up about 5% of the total population. Even though the referendum might greatly affect their future, they were not allowed to vote.

The reality of the situation however is that employers, charities and other not for profit organisations in the Community & Voluntary Sector (CVS) need to be ready for the fact that the status of EU nationals could alter and the rules governing how employers use this valuable skills resource could change. Current rules state that permanent residency rights would apply where the individual has lived in the UK for more than five years, which almost 2.9 million would have done by 2019 – the year Britain is set to leave the EU.

There is very little that is going to happen overnight, there is a two-year breakaway period while the details of the withdrawal are worked out. Determining the impact the Leave result would have on employers & organisations is difficult as there are so many factors to take into consideration. Even if little will change in the short term, employers need to prepare for the potential consequences.

There is evidence to show that a large percentage of EU Nationals and migrant workers are employed within the Community Sector. One of the greatest attributes that staff in the CVS have is the regular consistency of contact, whether that is in a supported living environment, day centre facilities, health & welfare support, residential care, home care services. The vulnerable adults and children that are provided with this day to day support rely on the regular appearances of familiar staff to help them ensure that the quality of life they enjoy is maintained. This is in spite of the salaries within the Community & Voluntary Sector being some of the lowest in the UK.

The important message to a great deal of employers is to ensure that there is minimal disruption to the workforce, changes in circumstances can have an adverse effect on the vulnerable in our society that rely on CVS staff to provide the support that is an important part of their lives.

One unsavoury aspect of the vote to leave the EU has been the increase in behaviour of a racist and discriminatory nature, not only on the streets of the UK but in workplaces and organisations. This attitude to the EU nationals cannot be tolerated in a civilised society and it is the responsibility of employers to ensure company policy is strictly adhered to, and where instances of this abusive and discriminatory attitude is shown to have taken place to deal with in the strongest terms to send out the message that is will not be condoned.

a. Employers can assist by:

b. Adopting and promoting zero-tolerance anti-discrimination policies.

c. Have a system in place so that staff can report discrimination at work easily, and have confidence employers will take it seriously and deal with issues promptly.

d. Work with UNISON to train and support staff to recognise and report this type of behaviour.

We call on the Community Service Group Executive to:

1. Facilitate further training for CVS reps and members on tackling discrimination at work.

2. Provide support for Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic and migrant groups to become more involved in branch activity.

3. Survey UNISON CVS members to gauge attitudes and identify issues and then mount a campaign to ensure that all EU nationals and migrant workers in the sector are treated with respect and favour without the threat of racism and discrimination.