Supporting Non-EEA Staff
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We have been pressing the University since May 2018 to improve the level of support offered to international (non-EEA) colleagues in their Indefinite Leave to Remain costs (ILR, a.k.a. settlement).
The status quo
- Under most visa paths followed by non-EEA staff, it is necessary for us to apply for ILR, or else leave the country and our jobs after six years.
- The current cost of ILR for each primary applicant and for each dependent is £2,389.
- Five years ago, the cost for each primary applicant was £1,051 (a 227% increase) and for each dependent was £788 (a 303% increase).
- The University currently offers an interest free loan to defray the upfront cost of the considerable ILR fees, which is then paid back to the University through deductions from our pay packets.
The current situation
The University has decided not to improve its support for non-EEA staff, while simultaneously deciding to support EEA staff with the cost of their settlement costs, effectively creating a two-tiered workforce. Senior management have cited “Brexit uncertainties” to us with respect to this decision. It has not been clearly communicated to us who has made this decision, but based on the publicly available minutes of the University’s governing committees, it would seem to have been made by senior management.
July 2018: We sent a letter to the University Executive, signed by over 700 colleagues and students from across the University, asking for concrete improvements including reimbursing Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) fees for international staff and their dependants. You can read our letter here.
August 2018: The University Executive met. At the meeting, a paper was presented by James Saville, Director of HR, which had been approved by the Vice Principals International (James Smith), and People and Culture (Jane Norman), that proposed to enhance the University’s policy on reimbursing visa fees. The minutes of the meeting noted: “The Executive considered enhancements to the University’s policy on the reimbursement of visa fees, to reimburse Tier 1 visa fees; indefinite leave to remain fees for non-EEA staff, irrespective of their visa route and the (soon to be introduced) settled status fee for all EEA staff. In line with the existing policy, it was also proposed to reimburse the fees incurred by the staff member’s dependants. The proposal was supported, subject to further discussion with the University Secretary and Director of Finance around the resource implications”.
September 2018: The University Policy and Resources Committee met. On its agenda was a point to approve the “Reimbursement of UK Visa Fees.” The minutes of the meeting note: “Proposed enhancements to the University’s policy on the reimbursement of visa fees were reviewed. It was agreed to delegate authority to the Principal, working in conjunction with the Director of Human Resources and the senior team to finalise and agree a revised proposal.”
October 2018: We sent a query to Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice Principal, asking for an update on the progress of the proposal. Professor Jeffery responded by saying:
“We understand that some of our staff will be applying to secure permanent residence (or indefinite leave to remain) for themselves and their dependants. The University already offers interest-free loans to non-EEA staff and their dependants when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain. We will review how best to provide the right package of support for our non-EEA staff once we are clearer on the Government’s overall approach following the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations”. Read the full letter here.
Soon after, Professor Jeffrey sent all staff a “Brexit Update” that the University would be supporting EEA staff with the cost of the EU Settlement Scheme. Soon after, some staff received a message from James Saville, Director of HR, titled “Indefinite Leave to Remain”, which again repeated the status quo regarding interest free loans, saying “[w]e will review how best to provide the right package of support for our non-EEA staff once we are clearer on the Government’s overall approach following the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations.”
We proposed an emergency motion at the STUC Women’s Conference highlighting the gendered aspect of this lack of support and urging the University to change its policy. Read the text of the motion here.
November 2018: We sent a response to Professor Jeffery expressing our extreme disappointment with the University response. We argued:
“The implied association between ILR reimbursement and Brexit negotiations is not satisfactory. The issues raised in our letter long pre-date Brexit. If anything, the University’s decision, announced simultaneously with your response, to cover EU settled status application fees, only reinforces the inequity and impression of a two-tier workforce. We welcome the University’s commitment to EEA colleagues, but it is a basic fact that this decision represents unequal treatment of British/EEA and non-EEA staff”. Read our full letter here.
The proposal to reimburse non-EEA staff’s settlement fees would seem to have broad support from staff and students across the University. It has also appeared to have successfully passed through every governing committee to which it has been presented. Despite this, senior management have failed to implement it, and have failed to adequately explain why. As the results of the recent staff survey show, confidence in the University’s leadership is abysmally low, and this outcome only underlines why. International staff from outside of Europe are not satisfied with this differential treatment, and we look forward to the implementation of the ILR reimbursement proposal.