Confused about Brexit and what this means for current/future EU employees?

Posted on 18 March 2019 by You HR

Whilst we wait for a full and final position on Brexit and the negotiated exit terms between the UK and the EU and a date of when change will take place, there will nevertheless be an impact on EU nationals working in the UK.

To help understand what employers need to do, our article sets out key information you need to know and provides certainty as to the impact on EU citizens currently living and working in the UK and how you can best support them.

‘50% of respondents to our recent survey stated that they did not fully understand the application process for EU nationals applying for settled or pre-settled status within the UK’

The EU Settlement Scheme

All EU citizens and their family members residing in the UK will have to apply for UK settled status after Brexit.

The EU Settlement Scheme is now open (subject to a certain criteria) for EU citizens and their families to apply to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021, and a successful application will grant either settled or pre-settled status.

The EU Settlement Scheme will be fully open by 30 March 2019 and will be free for those applying after this date, anyone who has already applied or who applies and pays a fee during the test stage will have their fee refunded after 30 March. You do not need to do anything - you’ll be refunded automatically.

EU citizens need to follow three simple steps when applying either during the pilot or from 30 March 2019:

  • confirm their identity
  • demonstrate that they live in the UK
  • declare that they have no serious criminal convictions.

In line with the draft Withdrawal Agreement, the implementation period will run from the date the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 until 31 December 2020. This will enable the UK and the EU, businesses and public services to put in place the new arrangements required. The rights of EU citizens will remain unchanged until 30 June 2021, provided that they were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020. The EU Settlement Scheme will fully open by 30 March 2019 and applications will be open until 30 June 2021.

Settled and pre-settled status

After leaving the EU there will be a period of up to 2 years where EU citizens who lawfully reside and work in the UK may continue to do so without their rights being affected. However, if they are wanting to remain in the UK after this period, they must apply for and obtain settlement status.

If your EU employees have been resident in the UK for more than five continuous years:

They will be eligible for settled status. If they receive settled status this means there is no time limit on how long they can stay in the UK.

If your employees have been resident for less than five years:

They will be eligible for pre-settled status. If they receive pre-settled status this means they can stay in the UK for a period of five years. This will allow them to remain in the UK until they are eligible for settled status, generally once they have lived continuously in the UK for five years.

From 2021 the Government intends, for citizens who do not have settled status residence status, to have their employer sponsor them in order for them to be able to continue to work in the UK. Details of the system being put into place to address future plans, are set out in the Governments future skills-based immigration system.

Right to work checks

Current right to work checks apply until the end of 2020 and it is important to remember that employers have a duty not to discriminate against EU citizens considering the UK’s decision to leave the EU. From 2021 the right to work checks are expected to change.

Checks may need to be made to ensure that EU citizens have appropriate residence documents that will indicate their UK immigration status and their permission to continue to work legally. An EU passport alone may no longer be evidence of a right to work in the UK for EU nationals.

Whilst the position around EU workers is uncertain, employers should be encouraged to carry out some contingency planning as soon as possible to support their EU workers, such as verifying their settled status, progressing timely applications where applicable.

All employers in the UK have a responsibility to prevent illegal working and do this by conducting right to work checks, ensuring that you have certified proof of every individual’s right to work documents if they are employed under a contract of employment, or engaged to undertake work for you under any other contract.

Right to work checks should be completed prior to employment commencing and at reasonable intervals during employment where required. You HR Consultancy can complete a full right to work audit and support with ensuring that all right to work checks are sufficiently certified, as well as dealing with any matters for employers that may arise.

What happens if there is no deal?

The government announced in January that under a no-deal Brexit, EU nationals arriving in the UK after the UK leaves the EU would have to apply for leave to remain in order to stay more than three months. This would give them a further three years, after which they would need to apply again under the skills-based immigration system.

Our top tips in ensuring you are prepared for Brexit:

  • Ensure you have fully certified and up to date right to work checks for all individuals (employees and other workers) who work for you;
  • Ensure your EU employees are supported and guided through the EU settlement scheme and keep you informed of their progress if ‘settled status’ is not obtained;
  • Create a contingency plan to support your EU employees, including limiting travel plans for those who travel within the EU and need to maintain their ‘settled status’.

Where can I go for more information, advice and help?

Contact Alice at You HR on or call 01491 820 800 to book an appointment with us.

Sign up or encourage your employees to sign up for email alerts on the status of EU citizens in the UK:

Refer to the guidance published on GOV.UK about the EU Settlement Scheme.

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