Employing EEA Nationals – are you ready for the end of the Grace Period?

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The Grace Period, aka the six months post Brexit Day (1 January to 30 June 2021), gives EEA nationals and UK employers time to get “organised” for the changes that will follow.

EEA nationals who were resident in the UK prior to the 31 December 2020 must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and obtain Settled Status (or Pre-Settled Status) in order to:

  • continue living and working in the UK;
  • to be eligible for public services, public funds and pensions; and/or
  • to apply for British citizenship.

This must be done by 30 June 2021 and the requirement does not apply to Irish nationals as they retain their rights of free movement.

Following that deadline, EEA nationals who have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme will not be entitled to the above rights.

How will this affect employers?

Employers are not allowed to employ anyone who does not have the right to work in the UK. But here comes the tricky part: on one hand employers are required to check their staff’s right to work, whilst on the other they are not supposed to do so with regard to EEA nationals during the Grace Period. This is because it would amount to discriminating against EEA nationals who have until the 30 June 2021 to regularise their situation, and who can continue to live and work in the UK without “proving” their right until that date.

How can employers protect their business from the unpleasant surprise of an irregular employment situation on the 1 July 2021 (and subsequent legal sanctions)?

Although employers cannot ask their EEA employees to show that they have Settled or Pre-Settled Status, they can inform them that it will be necessary to obtain it by 1 July 2021. This information must be handled with caution; employers are not allowed to give immigration advice (unless they are formally authorised to) but they can share official government documentation with their staff.

What can employers do now?

They can accept an EEA-country passport as proof of right to work and inform their staff about the EU Settlement Scheme.

What can employers do from the 1 July 2021?

They will be able to ask for evidence of Settled or Pre-Settled Status from new starters. There is no expectation to do retrospective checks, but they will have to be conducted if it comes to the employers’ attention that an employee has no right to work.

It should be noted that a Residence Permit is not Settled or Pre-Settled Status and must be converted into Settled or Pre-Settled Status before the end of the Grace Period.

Can employers employ EEA nationals who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2021?

Yes, but they will need to sponsor them because they will be subject to the Immigration Points Based System like the nationals of the rest of the world.

If you are employing or intend to employ oversees staff and are uncertain about immigration requirements, we are here to help.