Can I employ EU citizens after Brexit?

Now that Brexit has happened, most EU citizens no longer have the automatic right to work in the UK. Irish Nationals are the exception.  So how can you employ EU Nationals in the UK?

Settled Status

EU nationals who started living in the UK before 31 December 2020 should apply for settled status. They have until 30 June 2021 to do so.  Once they have this, they are entitled to live and work in the UK.

There are two types of status, depending upon how long the person has lived in the UK:

  • Five continuous years or more – Settled Status
  • Less than five continuous years – Pre-settled Status*

*Once they have lived in the UK for five continuous years, they can apply for Settled Status.

The scheme is free of charge. Encourage your employees to apply for it now. Without this, as of 1 July 2021, you will not be able to employ them.

What if they don’t have settled status?

If your new employee does not have settled status, it may be that they just haven’t applied for it yet.  As they have until 30 June 2021 to do so, you can’t withdraw their offer – it could be discrimination.  However, if they settled in the UK after 31 December 2020, they won’t be eligible for settled status.  Potentially you could employ someone you later find never had the right to work in the UK.  If you find yourself in this situation, please contact me before reacting. You will still need to go through a fair procedure.

The UK will operate a points-based system for EU Nationals from January 2021.  To be granted a visa, the applicant will need to achieve 50 points under test one, plus at least 20 points under test two, as follows:

To bring people into the UK under this system, your business will also need to be a sponsor.

To become a Sponsor

If you want to become a sponsor, I would strongly suggest you start looking into this now. Don’t wait until you have found a great candidate, I promise you frustration if you do.

There are additional costs you need to be aware of, such as:

  • the cost of becoming a sponsor
  • the cost of each visa is currently £1,000 per year for a Tier Two migrant
  • potential wage inflation costs to meet minimum wage levels
  • the immigration health surcharge, if you choose to pay it on their behalf

The Home Office estimates that 70% of EU workers currently in the UK would not meet the requirements for a visa under the new scheme. In other words, it is likely to be much more difficult, expensive and in some cases, impossible to employ EU nationals in certain roles.

Actions you should take now

I would strongly encourage you to look ahead and prepare:

  • make those that recruit aware of these changes
  • audit your files to see which employees this will affect
  • make all staff aware of this scheme. It may affect relatives too
  • strongly encourage people to apply for settlement status, if eligible
  • ask for evidence of settled status, once achieved
  • assess how you would have coped, had you not been able to employ EU citizens
  • are you likely to want to sponsor EU citizens in the future? If so, apply to become a sponsor now
  • review how you source, train and retain talent

If you need any support on this, please call me.


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