Preparing for the end of the Brexit transition period: What steps should employers take?

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By Tom Brett Young – Partner, VWV

It will not have escaped the attention of most employers that the Brexit Transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020. After that date the EU’s rules on free movement will no longer apply in the UK. This change will have significant implications for almost all employers both in terms of their current workforce, and their recruitment activities from 1 January 2021 onwards.

What employees will be affected?

The EU’s free movement rules currently allow citizens of the European Economic Area (“EEA”) and Switzerland – and their family members – to live and work in the UK. Therefore, anyone currently in the UK on the basis of those EU free movement rights will need to take steps to ensure that they do not lose those rights after the transition period ends on 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021 onwards the UK will apply its Immigration Rules to EEA nationals and their family members who wish to enter and remain in the UK for any purpose. The government have also introduced changes to the existing Rules with which employers will need to become familiar.

Steps that businesses should take

With so much changing, employers should be aware of the necessary steps to take. EU Settlement Scheme for current employees;

• Are current EEA/Swiss employees and their family members aware of the requirement to apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”)? Residence in the UK before the end of the Transition Period will entitle someone to apply under the EUSS, and the deadline for applications is 30 June 2021. EEA/Swiss nationals joining the business after 31 December 2020

• If future EEA national employees are living in the UK, are they aware that they will need to submit an EUSS application, or have they applied already?

• If they are not currently living in the UK, is it possible to arrange for them to enter the UK before the end of 2020?

• If not, will they qualify for a visa allowing them to work in the UK? The main routes for foreign-national workers to come to the UK require sponsorship by a “Tier 2” sponsor. On 1 December 2020 the Tier 2 categories will be replaced by the Skilled Worker and Intra-Company Transfer categories, but the principle of employer sponsorship will continue. On that basis employers should review their sponsorship requirements.

Review sponsorship requirements

• Employers without a sponsor licence should urgently review whether they may need one in the future in order to sponsor workers to fill skilled vacancies.

• Employers with a Tier 2 sponsor licence should ensure compliance with current sponsorship requirements and review how the licence is set up to confirm that it covers the required sites and branches both in the UK and overseas.

• Businesses with offices in the EEA/Switzerland should consider the future needs of employees of those offices to travel to the UK for work purposes and whether their activities will be covered by the Immigration Rules for visitors or whether they will require immigration permission to work in the UK.

Staff with responsibility for recruitment and immigration compliance will need to consider how these changes will affect the business in the future. Factors to consider will be the changes to the immigration system (including which roles will be eligible for sponsorship), processing times and costs.

For a more detailed overview of the above, please view our vodcast at www.vwv.co.uk/immigration-brexit. Please also feel free to share with colleagues who may be involved with immigration aspects for your business.

Tom Brett Young is a partner and immigration specialist at award-winning law firm VWV. Tom can be contacted on 07393 148 352 or at tbrettyoung@vwv.co.uk

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