On the 31st December 2020, at 11 pm GMT, the UK left the EU, as laid out in the withdrawal agreement made at the beginning of last year. This departure brings a web of new complications, as we attempt to make it on our own for the first time in almost 50 years.

Although a last-minute deal was agreed with the EU on Christmas Eve last year, our relationship with the Continent has changed significantly. New rules, regulations, and checks now exist in a formerly frictionless arrangement.

Existing overseas workers after Brexit

Brexit brings with it a lot of uncertainty for employers and employees, with the end of free movement between the UK and the EU and a new immigration system raising questions surrounding the long-term employment security of overseas workers in the UK.

  • Current EU employees

For those who already employ EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, the rules are, fortunately, largely unchanged. The new, post-Brexit immigration policies are not being applied retrospectively, so those EU citizens who were living their lives in the UK prior to the 31st December 2020, can continue to do so.

These citizens will likely need to apply for the EU settlement scheme, however, and have until the 30th June 2021 to do so. Those who already have indefinite leave to remain or enter do not need to apply but applying for the settlement scheme will offer advantages such as the ability to spend up to 5 years in a row outside of the UK, instead of the current 2.

The new EU settlement scheme is made up of two levels, based on how long you’ve lived in the UK. These levels are ‘settled status’ and ‘pre-settled status’.  

If, when your employees apply, they’ve been living in the UK for 5 continuous years, they’ll likely be eligible for settled status. This will grant your employees permanent residence in the UK as well as the ability to work and access benefits such as the NHS. Settled status is the final steppingstone before full British citizenship.

For those who’ve been resident for less than 5 years but were in the UK before 31st December 2020, they will likely be granted pre-settled status. This will allow the same opportunities as settled status, but will only be valid for 5 years, within which time they have the opportunity to apply for settled status.

Your employees will not have the choice of which settlement status they apply for, they will complete the same application and, if successful, will be assigned a status based on their circumstances.

  • Current non-EU employees

For those employees who’ve come to the UK from outside of the EU, the rules are arguably less complex than if they had come from the EU. If your existing non-EU employees have valid indefinite leave to remain or enter, then Brexit does not affect their ability to continue their lives in the UK.

If they do not have leave to remain or enter, then their status in the UK will likely continue to be based around a valid visa, which will need to be renewed when needed, as it was before Brexit.

Employing new overseas workers after Brexit

The Government has opted to implement a new immigration system that has now been operational since the 1st January 2021. The new system is a points-based one, similar in principle to schemes operated by nations such as Australia. Now, new arrivals to the UK, no matter where they arrive from, will have to apply under this new system.

The points-based system requires new workers to take one of several routes, most of which entail salary requirements, proof of job offers, and often even endorsements from relevant government-registered bodies.

Applicants will have to meet a minimum 70-point threshold, where characteristics and job values such as their prospective salary, education level, and employment field will count for various amounts.

Some fields are exchangeable and can be compensated for with other attributes or visa-versa. Some, however, are mandatory, and require the applicant to have a job offer by an approved sponsor, at the appropriate skill level, and to speak English to a required standard.

Employers looking to hire talent from outside of the UK will have to register with the Home Office as a sponsor and pay a fee.

New rules will undoubtedly make recruiting from outside of the UK a more complicated process, and access to Britain for the individuals involved equally so. The major positive for those employers who are worried about the status of their current employees, is that rules for existing workers are largely unchanged.

For those looking to employ new overseas workers, there are now additional considerations to be made, such as timeframes, costs, and admin. Any jobs you offer will need to meet all the criteria needed to allow someone from outside the UK to apply successfully under the new system.

We’ve pulled together two visual guides to help you make sense of these new restrictions, for both existing employees and potential new talent from overseas. Help yourself cut through some of the red tapes by understanding the UK’s new post-Brexit employment rules.

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