Free Movement of People – Individual Mobility
By law, this freedom is called “Freedom of Workers”. We have expanded the notion here as in practice, it relates to more than just EU workers and includes for example family members and jobseekers, but also students and unemployed Union citizens. We have picked out the three most relevant categories here below.
Brexit for Employees
There has been a lot of speculation over the past 2 years around Brexit which has perhaps meant that many non-British citizens are questioning the security of their current situation in the UK. The key information is that there will be no change to the legal rights of EU nationals living in the UK until at least 31st December 2020, or later if there is an extension.
In December 2017, the UK Government announced that an agreement had been reached with the European Commission on citizens’ rights, whereby EU citizens who arrive in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be entitled to apply for “settled status” (see below) when they have five years’ continuous residence in the UK. However, the Draft Withdrawal Agreement published on 19th March 2019 confirmed that free movement of people will be extended to the start of 2021. This recent assurance means that EU Nationals arriving in the UK would be able to stay in the UK indefinitely and also access work permits via the new immigration regime.
Did you know…
- Currently, citizens of EEA countries and Switzerland plus any non EEA family members can live and work in the UK and do not need any specific permission to do so at present, however in the interests of security and perhaps reassurance, it could be beneficial to formally request documentation.
- There are pro’s and cons regarding applying for Permanent Residency at this time and also criteria as to whether an individual has this option open to them, i.e. one stipulation is that an individual must have been a continuous resident in the UK for 5 years or more.
- Currently anyone who is an EU citizen living and working in the UK does not have to make an application to preserve their rights at this time; and indeed the Home Office are encouraging EU citizens to not make applications just now as they are inundated with applications.
- There will however be the need to demonstrate via documentation in the future that an individual has the right to live and work in the UK. This could be via Permanent Residency, British Citizenship or Visa, but the longer term plan would be that individuals who do not hold visa status will apply for Settled Worker status (which will be discussed later in the newsletter). Those currently holding Permanent Residency will also need to apply for Settled Worker status.
- Key areas which individuals may want to consider are whether they wish to be British (British Citizenship or Settled Worker), whether they would like the right to vote in the UK, whether holding dual citizenship is a possibility, whether they have EU family members who they would like to bring with them to live in the UK (as the British Immigration rules may be more restrictive than those currently enforced under the EU) and their taxation status.
Brexit for Employers
As discussed above, immediate uncertainties over the immigration status post-Brexit were addressed in the Draft Withdrawal Agreement confirming EU citizens’ rights to remain unchanged until 31st December 2020. As previously, this means for the moment there is no issue for EU nationals to live and work in the UK. Irrespective of the recent assurances, employers need to think about future proofing their business, which of course means looking at how the company can support both current non British employees and also potential hires from outside the UK.
Some thoughts to bear in mind:
- Consider the workforce and how many non-British employees are in the business or British employees who may have non-British spouses.
- What can your business afford by way of assistance? Consider presentations explaining the current status re immigration and Brexit and also presentations to assist with applications. Perhaps you can afford to pay for some legal support for employees who may be affected?
- When you are hiring non-British employees, consider that they may wish to have some reassurance from you that post Brexit, should they not be in a position to stay and work in the UK that they will have some support, this could be by way of a clause in a contract, legal assistance, relocation package etc.
- There is an expectation that there will still be a high requirement for EU talent in the UK post Brexit. There is a continuing skills shortage in the UK particularly within Tech.
- There may be a greater need for UK Companies to apply for sponsorship licences to perhaps cover both EU talent and also of course talent from outside of the EU (as is current practice).
- There are an expanded list of sponsorship licence categories and Companies need to decide which (if any) are more appropriate for them if needed.
- There is an expectation that there will be greater restrictions on low skilled workers looking to work in the UK with visa’s capped at 2 years. This cap is also to extend to high skill workers with some visa categorisations, where they will be able to stay for 5 years without settlement status.
- Companies should think about ensuring they are tightening up their compliance checks, including Right to Work checks (which are the minimum which an employer has a responsibility to carry out currently). Compliance is extremely important for sponsorship licences and failure to comply could mean loss of licences and the personnel sponsored by the Company.
Settled Worker Status
In December 2017, the Government announced that it had reached an agreement with the European Commission on citizens’ rights, under which EU citizens arriving in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be entitled to apply for “settled status” when they have five years’ continuous residence in the UK. This will give them the right to stay indefinitely. Settled Status is currently known as Permanent Residence, however those currently living and working in the UK under a Permanent Residence agreement will need to also apply for Settled Status.
Applicants who are not able to give evidence of five years’ continuous residence necessary to obtain settled status, but who can evidence that they were resident before the specified date, will be given temporary status. This means that they will be given the opportunity to build up the required longevity of residency to be able to apply for Settled Status.