New immigration rules come into force on 1 January 2021 and everyone (excluding Irish citizens) who comes to the UK to live, work or study after 31 December 2020 will fall within the same point-based immigration rules. Automatic freedom of movement for European nationals will end.
However, EEA, EU and Swiss nationals living in the UK before 31 December 2020 can apply for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and this will give them the ongoing right to live and work in the UK without restriction.
The new rules represent a significant change for UK employers and non-UK migrant workers; here are a few key points that employers may wish to think about now.
Impact on current employees
Current employees from the EEA, EU and Switzerland (referred to as EU nationals) who already live, or who arrive in the UK before 31 December 2020 have until 30 June 2021 to apply for settled or pre-settled status – which one will depend on how long they have lived in the UK. If they don’t register before 30 June 2021, the right to work in the UK without a visa will be lost.
This is a mandatory requirement, regardless of how long they have already lived in the UK, and includes family members of UK citizens and those who currently have permanent residence status issued under an existing EU agreement.
Impact on future hires
From 1 January 2021, the right to work rules will change.
EU citizens moving to the UK after 1 Jan 2021 will not have the right to work under the EUSS and will need a valid visa and employer sponsorship. It will be unlawful to knowingly employ a non-UK national who does not have the correct right to work.
The government has set out the criteria that will apply for all new recruitment of non-UK employees, which will be skills and salary based.
There will be a significant financial cost and considerable additional resourcing/processing time associated with the recruitment of any new migrant worker.
Right to work checks
‘Right to work’ checks will be changing from 30th June 2021 and employers will no longer check a passport or ID card from that date. No changes should be made until then.
Migrants will be given secure access to immigration status information via an online service and this can be used by UK employers to check their right to work.
However current EU employees must not be asked to retrospectively prove their right to work to an employer.
What should you be doing now?
Employers may wish to:
- Remind all employees of the need for EU nationals to apply for settled or pre-settled status before 30 June 2021.
- Apply for a sponsorship licence if you will want to sponsor any migrant worker from 1 January 2021, or ensure your existing sponsorship licence is up to date.
- Make sure your HR team is aware of the compliance requirements for holding a sponsorship licence as failure to comply can result in the removal of your sponsorship licence, significant financial penalties and/or a custodial sentence.
- Complete a mock audit of employees’ nationalities so that you can focus communications and understand the scale of your typical EU workforce for future resource planning.
- If you don’t already have an HR Information System in place, consider introducing one so that you can easily record and track workers’ right to work status.
The new immigration rules and guidance can be found here.
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