UK employers expected to police EU citizens’ right to work after Brexit

Jan 21 | 2019

It seems it will be up to employers to establish whether or not emigrants from Europe are entitled to work in the UK after Britain leaves the European Union in March, even though there appears to be no easy way of checking their status.

EU Citizens right to work after BrexitThe problem was highlighted during a Home Affairs Select Committee meeting on 5 November, 2018 when Caroline Nokes MP, Minister of State for Immigration said that employers will be expected to check that their employees from EU countries are entitled to work in the UK during the transition period and after Brexit is completed.

However, when asked by the Committee’s chairman Yvette Cooper how employers could establish the difference between a long-standing resident waiting to be given ‘settled status’ and someone who had just arrived in the country, Ms Nokes said, “It will be almost impossible for an employer to differentiate between them and somebody who is a new arrival.”

As we all know, penalties for employing illegal workers from outside the EU are severe and presumably after Brexit those without ‘settled status’ will be regarded in the same way.

Settled status and pre-settled status

According to the latest government information, to secure residency rights individuals who have lived in the UK for five years will need to apply for settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme will open fully by 30 March, 2019. Rights will not change until 2021 so there is no need to apply as soon as the scheme opens. Those not resident for five years before 30 June, 2021 must apply for pre-settled status. They then need to apply for settled status once they have been in the UK for at least six months of each of the last five years to qualify for continuous residence.

Who can stay and who must go?

With so many EU nationals working in the UK moving industry The Mover asked the government what reassurances it could give employers that their workers will be able to remain after Brexit.

A Home Office spokesperson said, "We will protect EU citizens' rights when we leave the EU, in both a deal or no-deal scenario. We are considering a number of options for the unlikely event that we reach March 2019 without a deal and will set out more information shortly.”

Not exactly clear?

The HO press office also attached the following statement:

The Prime Minister has been clear that in the unlikely event of not reaching a deal with the EU the UK will honour its commitment to all EU citizens, and their family members, resident by 29 March 2019 that they will be able to remain in the UK. This will be done through the EU Settlement Scheme and immigration status granted through the Scheme will remain valid regardless of the outcome of negotiations with the EU.  We will publish a White Paper on the future immigration system later this year.

Like most things involving Brexit the whole matter of worker status is a mess and we can only hope that at some point, sense and reason will prevail and allow business owners and their EU employees to sleep easy in their beds.