14 Dec 2020

Employing EU citizens in the UK from 1 January 2021


There are three key areas that all employers need to know if they want to continue to employ EU, EEA and Swiss citizens in the UK beyond 1 January 2021. This article briefly introduces those topics.

  1. Checking an EU citizen job applicant's right to work
  2. New immigration system from 1 January 2021
  3. EU Settlement Scheme

Checking an EU citizen job applicant's right to work:

All employers in the UK have a responsibility to prevent illegal working. Employers must conduct right to work checks before employing someone, to make sure the individual is not disqualified from carrying out the work in question by reason of their immigration status.

Because of coronavirus (COVID-19) there are temporary changes to the way employers can check documents, which include being able to ask for documents digitally, making checks on a video call.

In terms of the right to work documents required, these remain the same until 30 June 2021.

Until this date job applicants can prove their right to work in the following ways:

  • EU, EEA or Swiss citizens can use their passport or national identity card
  • non-EU, EEA or Swiss citizen family members can use an immigration status document listed in the right to work checks employer guide
  • EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members can use the online right to work checking service

If an applicant uses the online checking service this will generate a share code. Employers must then use the employers’ online service to check their right to work using this share code.

Employers have a duty not to discriminate against EU, EEA or Swiss citizens; and therefore, must not require them to show their status under the EU Settlement Scheme until after 30 June 2021.

Irish citizens will continue to prove their right to work in the UK as they do now.

New immigration system from 1 January 2021

A new immigration system will apply to people arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021 and EU citizens moving to the UK to work will need to get a visa in advance.

EU citizens applying for a skilled worker visa will need to show they have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor to be able to apply. Employers planning to sponsor skilled migrants from 2021, who are not currently an approved sponsor, should consider getting approved now.

Further information on the UK’s new points-based immigration system can be found on GOV.UK.

EU Settlement Scheme

EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and their family members who are living in the UK before 1 January 2021 need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.

If applicants are successful they will be able to continue living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021.

They will be given either:

  • settled status
  • pre-settled status

The status given depends on how long they’ve been living in the UK when they apply. Their rights will be different depending on which status they get. Applicants will usually be given settled status if they have already lived in the UK continuously for 5 years.

Employers are advised to share information with their employees about the EU Settlement Scheme.

Further information

If you would like an opportunity to discuss how all these changes may affect your particular organisation we would be very happy to talk things through with you. Find out how we can help you:

Visit our HR consultancy service page or get in touch to discuss how we can help you with all your HR needs.