What will happen to the estimated 3.8 million EU citizens settled in the UK when the UK eventually leaves Europe on 30th March 2019 and how will it affect their employers?

Despite all the ongoing political wrangling regarding the latest deal an agreement with the EU on what will happen to EU citizens after Brexit was actually reached earlier this year and is pretty much set in stone.

To lessen the immediate impact of Brexit an “implementation period” lasting until 31 December 2020 has been agreed (although this may be brought forward if there is a no deal Brexit).  In that transition period, EU citizens arriving in the UK would enjoy the same rights and guarantees as those who arrive beforehand. The same would apply to UK expats on the continent.

In the long term it has been agreed that after Brexit, all EU citizens will be required to register for “settled status” to enable them to continue to work, live and receive benefits including healthcare in the UK.  This will mean that employers will have to ensure that any EU citizens in their employment have settled status or have applied for it otherwise they will be deemed to be illegal workers and the employer may face a fine of £20,000 per worker.

The registration system will be open for applications in Q1 of 2019, the deadline for registration is 30th June 2021.

Individuals who come under the following categories will be eligible for settled status:

  • EU citizens, or a family member of an EU citizen
  • have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • have lived in the UK for a continuous 5-year period (‘continuous residence’)
  • If an individual has lived in the UK for less than 5 years, they will generally be eligible for ‘pre-settled status’ instead.

EU citizen’s will need to apply even if they are married to a British citizen.

It is important to remember that registering for settled status is not just for the right to work so every family member will have to apply if they wish to reside in the UK the cost of which is as follows:

  • Adults £65
  • Children £32.50

 If an EU citizen fails to register for settled status before the June 2021 deadline they will automatically lose the following:

  • the right to reside in the UK
  • the right to work in the UK
  • access to benefits
  • access to NHS healthcare

There are serious consequences for employers if they are found to be employing an EU citizen who has not registered for settled status.  The Home Office has the authority to carry out unannounced audits of workplaces.  If an employer is unable to produce right to work documentation for ANY member of staff (including British citizens) then the Home Office has the power the close that business until all documentation is provided.  If a business is found to be employing an EU citizen who has not registered for settled status by the 30th June 2021 deadline they will be subject to the following fines:

  • £15,000 for first offence per worker
  • £20,000 per worker thereafter

To ensure that they are protecting themselves employers will need to ensure that they have all the necessary right to work documentation for EVERY worker along with proof of settlement status registration for EU citizens.  They will also need to ensure that they are carrying out right to work checks before employing anyone, this should already be standard practice for every new employee as it has been a legal requirement for around 20 years.  The additional requirement now will be that EU citizens will have to provide details of the settlement status registration before they can start work.

The post Brexit future may still be unclear but this is one aspect of Brexit that businesses can start to prepare for now.  For HR advice on how you can prepare your business for life after Brexit speak to us at Solve.