Brexit Transition Toolkit: People

Brexit’s Impact on people

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The end of free movement puts half a billion Europeans subject to immigration controls and makes British nationals Third Country Nationals, who no longer have an automatic right to live and work in other member states (excluding Ireland).

The UK government reached agreements to protect the rights of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens already living in the UK, enabling them to claim settled or pre-settled status with similar rules applying to those UK citizens living in the EU, EEA or Switzerland by virtue of the Withdrawal Agreement. Those affected will need to apply prior to 30 June 2021. They will receive either pre-settled or settled status and will be given the ability to set up an online right to work record that employers can use to establish their right to work online. Employers are not allowed to provide immigration advice, but there is information available from GOV.UK that they can use to communicate the need for staff to consider the EU Settlement Scheme and regularise their status.

If employers have already undertaken a valid right to work check for an EU national whose employment will continue after 31 December, they are not expected to do a new check to ensure that settled/pre-settled status has been obtained, provided that the employment does not end and then restart.

The primary route for bringing in workers from 1 January 2021 is likely to be the overhauled points-based system, previously referred to as Tier 2 (General) but now called the ‘Skilled Worker’ route. Some of the criteria for this scheme have been relaxed e.g. suspension of the numbers cap (i.e. no monthly allocation for the time being), lowering of the minimum skill level from Graduate to A Level, slight lowering of the minimum pay threshold to just over £25k and the ceasing of the ‘resident labour market test’. There is a limited ability to ‘trade’ points between certain categories. This route does require the applicant to have an offer of a job from a licenced sponsor.

To become a sponsor, an employer needs to apply to the home office and prove they are a genuine UK employer with adequate personnel and systems in place (particularly HR) to be entrusted with the ‘privilege’ of having demand driven access to migrant workers. Costs apply to both the application process and for every sponsored visa.

Frontier Workers are a creation of EU law and will be a new visa category, outside of the points based system, for EU workers who have been travelling in and out of the UK to work, but for whom UK is not their principal place of residence. Those who continue to do this beyond 31 December will be able to apply for a frontier worker visa which can apply for so long as they continue to act as such. It will not however be available for anyone who starts working in this manner from 1 January 2021.

To protect the UK’s knowledge economy and ensure continued ability to attract scientists and researchers, the UK has introduced a Global Talent Visa scheme which supports those that work in academia or research if you are a leader within the fields of science, medicine or engineering.

There are a number of other more ‘niche’ visa types that will also need to be considered, potentially, for EU citizens coming to work in the UK. This includes Intra Company Transfer, extended post-study work visas and other temporary ‘Tier 5’ visas such as the Youth Mobility Scheme.

Following the end of the transition period, businesses will also need to consider whether work permits or visas are required for UK employees to operate in the EU. Arrangements in individual countries will need to be investigated as necessary.


  • If you are actively considering hiring EU workers – try as far as possible to bring them in before 11pm on 31 December 2020, when the rules all change
  • Review employment records to identify and confirm that relevant groups of employees have applied for settled or re-settled status (either in the UK or EU) including any who are on a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa – Those that have not applied may indicate future staffing requirements
  • Support relevant employees with their applications for settled status
  • Consider whether to apply for a Sponsor Licence to utilise the new Skilled Worker route under the Tier 2 Points Based Visa system and monitor Shortage Occupation Lists, whereby criteria should be more flexible.
  • Review whether other Visa types may also be relevant for your business.
  • Look to manage risk by investing in UK talent development and consider beneficial schemes such as Kickstarter, Apprenticeships and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
  • Continue to review recruitment strategy and people risks.

If you have any further enquiries please contact our Brexit Team via the below form.

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