Post-Brexit, employment law is changing. We explore the implications for employers and EU citizen employees.

recent poll canvassed the views of organisations – both UK and internationally to gauge how they believe they will be impacted by Brexit, also the extent to which they have put plans in place to mitigate the risks of trading post-Brexit.

The concern is that only 20% said they have a good understanding of the risks of not being prepared and have put mitigations in place. However, the implications for businesses who employ EU citizens are potentially serious with the risk of fines if they are found to be employing people illegally.

It’s essential that businesses who already employ EU citizens (or plan to do so) following the transition period, are aware of their responsibilities and the new legislation announced by the Home Office in their Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules.

Brexit and employment law

The end of the Brexit transition period and the introduction of restrictions to the free movement for European nationals in the UK takes place at 11 PM on the 31st December 2020.

From the 1st January 2021, there will be a new points-based immigration system. EU citizens arriving in the UK from 1 January will need to comply with the same visa requirements as other non-UK citizens.

The government has advised that in many cases, UK employers will need to sponsor European citizens and this means many businesses will be required to apply for a sponsor license. Given the high number of businesses which rely on EU citizens, the government is recommending that applications for licenses are submitted as soon as possible.

Increased recruitment and employee retention costs

The new rules are likely to have an impact on businesses’ recruitment overheads as it costs thousands of pounds to sponsor an individual for five years. At a time when so many small businesses are under pressure to reduce overheads, these additional costs are a particularly unwelcome burden.

There will be civil penalties of up to £20,000 for employers who do not follow the correct procedures and fail to carry out the correct right to work checks, where it is later discovered that an individual is working in the UK illegally.

Rules for existing employees from the EU

Employers who already employ EU citizens should encourage them to apply for settled or pre-settled status, if they have not already done so. European citizens already in the UK before the end of the transition period have a grace period until 30th June 2021 to apply under the settlement scheme.

There are also different schemes for some workers – for example, there is the Global Talent, Innovator and Start-Up visa. The government says this is designed to attract “those who have an exceptional talent or show exceptional promise in the fields of engineering, science, tech or culture”.

The Home Office have created an EU Settlement Scheme toolkit to help employers support EU citizens apply to stay in the UK. This includes various resources, including:

  • Template letters to EU citizen staff
  • Factsheets, leaflets and posters
  • Social media content and videos
  • Presentations
  • Translated materials

Employing new EU citizens – the points system explained

To qualify for a visa, migrant workers who want to move to the UK will have to qualify for 70 points. Having a job offer from an approved employer for a skilled job will earn 40 points. Being able to speak English will give another 10 points. The applicant can achieve the remaining 20 points if they are due to be paid at least £25,600 a year.

They can also gain extra points for having better qualifications (10 points for a relevant PhD, or 20 points for a PhD in science, technology, engineering or maths) or an offer of a job in which the UK has a shortage (20 points), even if it doesn’t pay as much money.

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