As of the 1st of January 2014, Bulgarian and Romanian citizens have the same rights to work in the UK as other European Union citizens. This article looks at the top three challenges HR departments will face when hiring overseas workers, and how to ensure a happy and compliant workforce.
Freedom of Movement for Workers
In 2007, Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU and their residents were immediately granted free movement between countries. However the boundaries were very restrictive for the first seven years for migrant workers. For example, employers had to apply for work permits if they wanted to hire a Romanian or Bulgarian migrant worker, and the immigrants themselves had to have an “accession worker card”.
As of 2014, the restrictions have been dropped in eight countries including the UK and the free movement for workers to those countries is now granted to every Bulgarian and Romanian citizen. Pressure group Migration Watch has predicted 50,000 immigrants could come to the UK every year over a 5-year period. The figures of the Bulgarian ambassador are slightly lower as he estimates that about 8,000 Bulgarians would come.
So far, the Romanian ambassador claims the numbers are behind expectations, with only a handful of Romanians arriving since the beginning of this month.
Challenges for HR Departments
With the UK being named the “most lucrative“ destination by the London Evening Standard, HR departments are now regularly receiving job applications from Romanians and Bulgarians. We’ve listed the top three challenges a HR department faces by employing multicultural staff and how to overcome them:
1) The HR team might have to think about hiring an interpreter to get the working relationship with a new foreign employee off to a good start. It might be worth choosing a telephone Interpreter over a face-to-face interpreter when you need help negotiating the working terms. Don’t risk losing a well-qualified employee because you don’t speak the same language.
2) Hiring a foreign worker who hasn’t mastered the English language yet means that you need to adapt and provide relevant company documents in various native languages. A good starting point are your health and safety documents and labels. Make sure that you always keep a translated copy in Romanian or Bulgarian for your migrant workers. Last year, the Health and Safety Executive published some interesting figures about health and safety prosecutions which could have been avoided with proper health and safety procedures and labeling in place. It is very important that the HR Department is up to date with any legal changes and comply with legislation.
3) And finally don’t forget that any training materials need to be available in Romanian and Bulgarian. With the help of a voice-over-artist you can tackle this challenge easily and provide the best training for your staff, importantly ensuring they understand the policies and working practices.
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