Cross-border academic ‘pushed out of UK’ by healthcare delay

Scholar who lives in Germany and works in UK blames Brexit after waiting months for certificate

December 19, 2017
Ambulance in crowded street
Source: Alamy

A European academic at a UK university claimed he was being “pushed out” of the country after spending 10 months fighting to receive a healthcare certificate to no avail.

Scholars who work at UK universities but live in other countries in Europe require a healthcare certificate from HM Revenue & Customs in order to receive free healthcare in their nation of residence.

One British academic who works at a UK institution but lives in Germany told Times Higher Education that he sent an application for his certificate to be renewed in February but he still has not received the documentation or any response from the authorities. The application was first sent to the German authorities and would have arrived at HMRC in March, he said. 

His certificate expired in July and as a result of being uninsured he has had to receive private healthcare three times since then, including once for stitches.

“This is about being able to go to the doctor, it’s about being able to go to the dentist, it’s about being able to get medication, it’s about being able to feel that if something happens to me I’m not going to have to pay twice,” said the academic, who did not want to be named. He has not yet been sent a bill outlining the costs.

While there is no official record of the number of cross-border academics working in the UK, the scholar said he knows of at least seven other cross-border workers at his university who live elsewhere in the European Union and some of these have also been experiencing problems with receiving their healthcare certificates.

He added that he was “certain” that the delay is related to Brexit as he has not had any problems obtaining the certificate during the previous five years that he worked in the UK and lived abroad. It is not yet known whether cross-border academics working in the UK will be able to receive such certificates post-Brexit.

“This is a serious staff retention issue. Even if people like me do find a way to stay, this whole episode is bound to affect motivation and productivity. For my own part, I am very worried about my mental health,” he said.

“I would like to see a robust response from my employer, but have had no support beyond some warm words. I feel that the university is not taking the whole Brexit issue seriously enough, and I certainly don’t feel valued.”

He said that he is now actively looking to leave the UK higher education sector.

“I hate the idea of having to apply for different jobs. I really like my current job – I like my colleagues, I like my students, I like the work, I like everything about it. And I’m very angry that I feel like I’m being forced…to essentially find work outside the UK. I’m essentially being pushed out of Britain because of this,” he said.

An HMRC spokesman said: “There is currently no processing backlog for these applications. Until the UK exits the EU, EU nationals and UK nationals in other EU member states will continue to have the same rights and responsibilities as now and HMRC’s approach to issuing healthcare certificates is unchanged.”

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