What does the end of Brexit transition mean for European workers I currently employ?

Dec 31, 2020 | Good Management

From 1 January 2021, the transition period for Brexit will come to an end, meaning no more free movement for citizens from the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland. Those groups will now need specific permission to work here just like citizens of any other country. Here are some common questions about the implications for European workers who are already working for your business by the end of December 2021.

Do my European workers need to do anything?

If they don’t already have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, your EU workers need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, which will give them the right to stay indefinitely. The scheme closes on 30 June 2021.

If they’re already here will they automatically get Settled Status?

If your EU workers have been in the UK continuously for five years, they will be granted ‘settled status’ (subject to exceptions outlined below). ‘Continuously’ means for at least six months in any 12 month period for five years.

If they do not have the necessary five years’ continuous residence, they won’t get settled status, but they will get ‘pre-settled status’. This means they can stay in the UK long enough to get the five years, at which point they’ll be able to apply for settled status.

Are there any exceptions?

Although the vast majority of EU workers with the necessary continuous residence will be granted settled status (or pre-settled status), it isn’t automatic. An individual might be rejected if they have a serious criminal record or represent a major security risk remaining in the UK.

When applying through the EU Settlement Scheme, individuals will be asked to declare criminal convictions, and these will be checked. This won’t include any spent convictions or minor convictions like speeding fines or similar.

How do applications work and how much does it cost?

The Scheme is free, and applications should be made through the gov.uk website. Applicants will need to submit a digital photo of their face alongside their passport or national identity card if they have one. They can scan these in on an app or send them in the post.

In order to prove length of residence, applicants can get this checked automatically by providing their NI number. If this isn’t enough, they will receive notification from the Home Office of further information required.

If your EU workers don’t have any of the documents required, they can contact the EU Settlement Scheme Resolution Centre for assistance on what alternatives can be used.

An application should take around five days if nothing further is required, and successful applicants will get an email confirming their status, with a reference number. They can then get a ‘share code’ which can be used by prospective employers to check their right to work in the UK.

Should I check that my EU workers have applied to the Settlement Scheme?

Your EU workers are not obliged to tell you whether they’ve applied or, indeed, what the outcome actually was. The Government has also said that employers should not ‘check’. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask the question, as ‘check’ implies possible punitive action if the answer is no.

What if someone is eligible to apply and doesn’t?

Unfortunately, it isn’t yet clear what happens if you have an EU worker who could apply but doesn’t do so by the deadline.

Your best bet in the meantime is to encourage those workers to access the scheme and provide them with as much support as you can to do so. This might include signposting to information, and providing practical assistance such as allowing them to complete their application on IT equipment at work, or even guiding them through the process if they perhaps don’t have good English or are worried.


If you need further advice on how the end of the Brexit transition affects your business, do get in touch.