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Tabytha Cunningham | 22nd September 2020

Are you and your EU citizen workers prepared for Brexit?


Tabytha Cunningham | 22nd September 2020

Are you and your EU citizen workers prepared for Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020 and brings big changes for any EU citizen who want to come and live and work in the UK.

In this article, we summarise these changes and provide a step by step timeline for employers to follow to meet their requirements.

The Brexit deadlines for EU citizens coming to live and work in the UK

There are 2 key deadlines looming:

  1. Any EU citizen who wants to live and work in the UK without restrictions post Brexit must be living in the UK by 31 December 2020 (and be able to prove it).
  2. Any EU citizen who wants to continue to live and work in the UK must apply through the EU Settlement Scheme for either pre-settled status (if they have less than 5 years’ residence in the UK) or settled status (if they have 5 years’ residence or more in the UK) by 30 June 2021.

If an EU citizen does not take these steps, as of 1 July 2021, they will no longer have the right to live and work in the UK could be subject to immigration enforcement action.

What should employers do now regarding their EU citizen workers?

All employers should act now to:

  • review their workforce;
  • identify those EU citizens who may be affected by these new rules;
  • inform them of the need to apply for pre-settled or settled status; and
  • provide them with support to make sure they continue to have the right to live and work in the UK after Brexit.

If EU citizens have not complied with these requirements by 30 June 2021, it will be illegal for any UK employer to employ them to work in the UK. They would not pass the right to work checks that all employers need to carry out and the employer would be at risk of penalties and sanctions from the UK Government.

Whilst an employer is likely to be able to follow a fair process to end an employment contract legally in this situation, this is obviously something employers want to avoid.

It is therefore in everyone’s interests for employers to educate their employees and proactively manage this process over the coming months.

Employer’s steps to compliance timeline

We have set out below an action plan and suggested time line to make sure you meet these requirements and protect your workforce for the future.

eu citizens brexit


Hopefully all your employees will obtain pre-settled or settled status as required; however, if an employee says they will not be applying for such status or raises concerns, we would be happy to advise you on your options.

When should employers start this process and complete it by?

Although the deadline for EU citizens to obtain pre-settled or settled status is 30 June 2021, we do not recommend you leave this process until the last minute. From January 2021, you will need to ensure that all EU citizens have the right to work in the UK. The easiest way to do this for those EU citizens who were in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 is by evidencing their settled or pre-settled status.

We strongly recommend you do as much as possible to try and secure your workforce’s future by December 2020 and work towards this date as far as possible. This will give time for any remaining issues to be dealt with in the grace period from January to June 2021. The time line above reflects this.

What will the rules be for EU nationals who first come to the UK after 1 January 2021?

EU nationals who want to come to work in the UK from 1 January 2021 and who aren’t already based in the UK will need a skilled worker visa under the new Points-Based Immigration System which will be in place from 1 January 2021.

To employ these EU nationals you will need to be registered as a sponsor with a sponsor licence and be able to meet the requirements of the new Points-Based Immigration System. Applying for a sponsor licence can currently take up to 8 weeks, and it is anticipated that there will be a surge in demand at the end of the year so future applications may take longer. Priority options will be available and will only take 10 working days but such applications will require the payment of additional fees.

If you don’t already have a sponsor licence but think you might need one in 2021 or you need advice on what this means for your business please do let us know and a member of the Immigration Team will be happy to help.

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