With the EU Settlement Scheme now open to all eligible EEA nationals and family members, many UK employers remain uncertain about what this means for their employees and their HR compliance, policies and processes.
We hear concerns about how to best support EEA workers through the new rules and about the potential risks of workplace discrimination or Home Office penalties should an employer err in their compliance duties.
We are working with employers across the UK through this period of change. We provide guidance on employers’ duties under UK immigration rules and how best to engage with EU workers through implementation. We are also advising on how to future-proof HR, recruitment and people strategies and processes to ensure ongoing compliance.
Settled Status in the UK: What do employers have to do?
For UK employers, the key considerations of the EU settlement scheme are as follows:
- You have a duty not to discriminate against EU citizens in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. This applies both a prospective and current employer.
- Current right to work checks (e.g. EU passport and/or national ID card) apply until the end of 2020. There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK until 2021.
- You are not expected to pay or support the cost of the EU settlement scheme application for your EU citizen employees. You are welcome to do so at your discretion.
- There is no legal obligation for you to communicate the EU Settlement Scheme, however you may wish to sign-post the information that the Government is providing.
- You do not have to interpret information provided by the Government and you must be careful not to provide immigration advice.
What employers need to know about the new UK Settled Status Scheme for EU Citizens
The introduction of the new Settled Status marks the end of freedom of movement for EU citizens in the UK.
The new status applies to EU citizens in the UK and their family members.
From 1 July 2021, EU citizens and their family members in the UK must hold lawful UK immigration status known as settled status.
An ‘implementation period’ is running between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020, during which time there will be no change to EU citizens’ current rights.
At the end of the implementation period in December 2020, settled status will replace permanent residence status.
EU citizens and their family members with settled status will have the right to remain in the UK indefinitely and have access, as they currently do, to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK.
Until the new status has been passed into law, the rights and status of EU citizens in the UK remain unchanged. This includes the attainment of permanent residence status after five continuous years of exercising Treaty Rights, and the requirement for proof of permanent residence as a mandatory prerequisite for EEA nationals applying to naturalise as British citizens.
Timeline for implementation
EU citizens and family members living in the UK for five continuous years by 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to make a settled status application to remain in the UK indefinitely.
Those who are in the UK by 31 December 2020 but have not attained the requisite five-year qualifying period will be eligible for ‘pre-settled status’. With pre-settled status, they are permitted to stay in the UK until they have reached the five-year point when they should apply for full settled status.
Close family members will be able to join an EU citizen relative in the UK after the end of the implementation period, provided the relationship existed on 31 December 2020 and continues to exist when the individual comes to the UK. This includes spouses, children and other dependants, as well as future children.
Applying for settled status
The Government has emphasised the scheme’s application process is intended to be streamlined and user-friendly. Existing government data such as HMRC records is being utilised to minimise the evidentiary burden on applicants and Home Office caseworkers are being afforded substantial discretion to enable smoother processing.
There is no charge for making an application. Those who already hold a valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain document will be able to transfer to settled status free of charge.
Advice for employers on Settled Status in the UK
For UK employers, the new settled status raises a number of considerations. EEA national personnel may have questions about what to do and whether they qualify for the new scheme, or they may wish to secure permanent residence status before the new system comes into force. Ensuring your workforce has access to up-to-date information will help to inform and reassure them of any concerns.
To support employers in approaching the change, we have developed workshops, presentations and information materials including white label fact sheets.
With the new scheme will come an inevitable need to police EU citizens’ immigration status. We expect this will fall to UK employers as part of their Right to Work document checks, following an update to the Home Office’s lists of acceptable documents.
From an HR compliance perspective, now is a good time for employers to ensure all relevant organisational policies and processes (recruitment, onboarding) are compliant with Right to Work duties and do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of nationality, and that relevant personnel are adequately trained and skilled to perform the document checks correctly.
If you have any queries about the EU settlement scheme and what this means for your business and employees, contact us for advice and support.