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The Rights of EU Citizens

updated
February 16, 2021
Published on:
February 16, 2021

Q. Following Brexit, what are the rights of EU citizens & their families to live & work in the UK?

A. Brexit means several changes to the rights of EU citizens and their families to live and work in the UK, as follows:

  • EU citizens who have lived in the UK for 5 or more years by 31 December 2020 are free to live in UK and can apply for EU settled status;
  • EU citizens who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years by 31 December 2020 can apply for EU pre-settled status. Then, once they have been in the UK for 5 years, they can apply for EU settled status;
  • Family members of EU citizens in the UK pre 31 December 2020 can apply for EU settled or pre-settled status in line with the above.

Employer obligations

Brexit will affect the steps employers are obliged to take to be able to demonstrate that they are preventing illegal working:

  • Up to 30 June 2021 – no change. Up until that date, employers can accept an EU passport or other proof of EU citizenship, as stated by the home office, as evidence of the right to work in the UK for all new employees.
  • After 30 June 2021 – proof of EU citizenship will no longer provide organisations with the statutory exemption they need to be able to prove they prevented illegal working. An updated list of accepted documents for right to work checks will be published closer to the time.
  • If employees had the right to work in the UK when they were employed and the employer has evidence of this, the employer does not need to carry out retrospective checks. However, beware, some right to work can be time limited. In which case employers are obliged to carry out repeat checks on time limited documents.

Employers should ensure that they take the following practical steps to protect themselves:

  • Audit their workforce to identify any affected employees who may need to apply for settled or pre-settled status;
  • Encourage anybody who needs to apply for settled or pre-settled status to do so early for free using www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families;
  • Diarise expiry dates for pre-settled status;
  • Ensure Contracts of Employment refer to conditionality on having right to work;
  • Diarise regular right-to-work checks;
  • Consider recruitment policies and how the right to work checks should be integrated into this;
  • Consider whether they are or should become a licensed sponsor

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