The Government has now introduced their guidance on EU citizens and their right to live and work in the UK before and after Brexit, and during the implementation period - which runs from 29th March 2019 until 31st December 2020.
From an employment law perspective there is uncertainty over whether EU citizens will legally be able to work in the UK. The recent guidance has confirmed that free movement of people will continue until the 31st December 2020 and has provided further information as to the status of EU citizens in the UK. EU citizens that are intending to stay in the UK after free movement of people ends will need to apply to have their status cemented.
The status EU citizens can apply for will depend on when they arrived in the UK. There are three distinct periods under the guidance: pre-implementation period (i.e. pre-29th March 2019); the implementation period (i.e. 29th March 2019 – 31st December 2020); and post-implementation period (i.e. post-31st December 2020).
Pre-implementation period: People who have been living in the UK continuously for 5 years by the 31st December 2020 will be able to apply for ‘settled status’. EU citizens who already have permanent residence will need to exchange this for the new ‘settled status’ document. Anyone who has been granted ‘settled status’ can stay in the UK indefinitely.
Anyone who arrives in the UK by the 29th March 2019 but won’t have been here for 5 years can apply to remain in the UK until they reach the 5 year mark. They will receive a ‘temporary residence permit’ until they have been in the UK for 5 years, and at this point they can apply for ‘settled status’.
Implementation period: Anyone arriving in the UK during the implementation period (29th March 2019 – 31st December 2020) will need to register if they are staying for longer than 3 months. After the 31st December 2020 they can apply for a ‘temporary residence permit’ if they wish to remain.
Future immigration controls: For anyone who arrives after the 31st of December 2020 there will be a new immigration system in place. There is no guidance on what this will look like yet, however the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is due to publish its report later this year which will hopefully shed some light on what form the new system may take.
One thing we do know is that as of the 1st July 2021 it will be mandatory for all EU citizens to hold a settled status document or a temporary residence permit. Employers should keep this date in mind as from then on they will need to update their right to work procedures.
The government guidance tells us that there is no requirement for employers to do anything about these changes at the moment. However, it is always shrewd to be prepared. One recommendation to get your business prepared for the change is to audit all of your staff members to determine which are British Nationals, EEA Nationals or non-EEA Nationals. This will give you a good footing to gauge which employees, and any future employees, will be affected by these changes.
Keep an eye on LAWmail for news of future developments and what these mean for your organisation. If you are concerned about the status of your workers then please contact your Employment Solicitor who will be able to provide further guidance.