‘We all feel this is our home now’ says Italian, whose employer is paying for foreign workers to stay after Brexit

PUBLISHED: 10:37 09 January 2019

Assistant manager at the Carluccio's Bury St Edmunds branch Michele Pagliuca. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Assistant manager at the Carluccio's Bury St Edmunds branch Michele Pagliuca. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Archant 2019

With Brexit looming, all EU citizens living in the UK will need to apply for the right to remain in the UK - and the Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s has taken bold steps to ensure that its foreign employees do just that.

The company is to become the first large restaurant brand to pay for its 1,550 non-British EU employees to apply for ‘settled-status’ in the UK after Brexit.

Under the EU Settlement Scheme, the application fee which Carluccio’s is offering to stump up is £65, and will give workers who have lived in the UK for five years or more ‘settled status’.

The move affects staff at the Italian restaurant chain’s branches at the Arc in Bury St Edmunds, Fenwicks in Colchester and intu Chapelfield in Norwich.

Michele Pagliuca, who is deputy manager of Carluccio’s in Bury Saint Edmunds. says he believes it’s a “great gesture” that his employer is making. “It shows that they care about their employees, and they’re concerned about what will happen after Brexit,” he said.

The Italian came over to London in 2002 from Northern Italy, and moved with his wife to Bury last July, to enjoy “a quieter life”.

“I never imagined 17 years ago that I would still be living here in the UK now - I only intended to be here for two months, but I fell in love with London,” he recalls.

In 2016, he was unperturbed about the results of the Brexit referendum. “It surprised me that British people voted to leave - but at the end of the day, I thought, this is their vote, not mine. It didn’t make me consider moving back to Italy, because by that time, we had bought a house in London and we didn’t expect much to change with Brexit.”

Carluccio’s employs 15 people at its restaurant in Bury Saint Edmunds, less than half of whom (seven) are British. Of the rest, Mr Pagliuca says that three are Italian, six are Polish, and five are Romanian. “They are all planning on staying here after Brexit,” he says. “They are well established in England - most of them have been here for four or five years. We talk about it sometimes, how we all feel that this is our home now.”

Mr Pagliuca says the thing he likes most about living in the UK is the “civility and freedom” of British life. “There is nothing about living here that makes me want to leave,” he says.

Although the Italian economy is currently struggling, with unemployment running at 10%, Mr Pagliuca says he could get a job back in Italy quite easily if he wanted to. “We own a villa in Italy and I have a chance to work in a restaurant there, but I still choose to remain in the UK,” he says.

In some ways, Mr Pagliuca’s life journey reflects that of Antonio Carluccio, the Italian founder of the restaurant chain which these days employs 2,300 people from more than 80 countries. Mr Carluccio came over to the UK in 1975 as a wine merchant, and lived in London for the rest of his life until he died in 2017.

“A large number, just like Antonio, decided to travel from mainland Europe and make their home in the UK,” says Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio’s. “We are passionate about the value that they bring to our business and it is something which we are keen to protect. It’s what Antonio would have wanted.

“We appreciate that the current political landscape is unsettling for many of our employees and we want to do everything we can to reassure them that they are part of the Carluccio’s famiglia.”

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