Beyond Brexit – Get to know the EU Settlement Scheme Toolkit
With the March 2019 Brexit deadline looming, we are aware that employers are becoming anxious about their EU citizen employees.
Will employers risk losing a large chunk of their workforce? How will the new Home Office rules work? Will employers risk discriminating against their EU citizen employees? In order to try to quell these fears, the Government have published an Employer Toolkit, focusing in particular on the EU Settlement Scheme. Coffin Mew’s Employment Team has consolidated the most important parts of the Government’s guidance below.
What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
The UK and the EU have together agreed that the rights of EU citizens living in the UK will remain uninterrupted until 31st December 2020. For these rights to continue post December 2020 however, EU citizens living in the UK will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. EU citizens who have been resident in the UK for more than 5 years by 31 December 2020 will be eligible for ‘settled status’. Those who have been resident in the UK for less than 5 years at this point will be eligible for ‘pre-settled status’.
What does this mean for employers?
There is no pressure on you as an employer to interpret the available Settlement Scheme information, nor to take any action on behalf of your EU citizen employees in this respect. Employers wanting to provide information to their employees must be careful not to provide immigration advice. The best way to support your EU workers is simply to signpost them to the materials and guidance provided for EU citizens on the Government website.
The right to work checks relating to EU citizen employees (e.g. EU passports and/or National ID cards) will continue to apply until the end of 2020. The rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK will not change until 2021.
It also goes without saying that employers must not discriminate against EU citizen employees and should not treat EU citizen job applicants any less favourably than UK applicants.
What does it mean for your EU citizen employees?
EU citizens living in the UK must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they wish to stay in the UK past 31st December 2020. The Scheme allows EU citizens to continue living and working in the UK. It will also allow EU citizens to continue accessing public services, public funds and pensions, and applying for British citizenship.
Who is eligible to apply?
EU citizens and non-EU family members of EU citizens may apply, provided they are resident in the UK by 31st December 2020. They will have until the 30th June 2021 to make their application.
A list of all EU nationalities can be found here. Discussions are unfortunately still underway regarding the citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Irish citizens have a special status in the UK that is separate from their EU citizenship rights – this means that they need not apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
It is worth nothing that, once granted, an EU citizen’s settled status will remain valid unless and until the citizen leaves the UK for a period of more than 5 years.
Should we be doing anything to help?
Employers are not expected to pay or support the cost of the application. Contributing towards or covering the application fee for an employee is entirely discretionary.
If you wish to help your EU employees, we recommend:
- signposting them to the relevant information on the Government website here;
- reminding employees that the Settlement Scheme online application process will allow applicants to access support over the phone or in person;
- suggesting that employees sign up to the Home Office email alerts tailored to EU Citizens living in the UK; and
- keeping an eye on news updates and Brexit developments.
* Update as of 06/12/18 – The UK Government have today confirmed that in the event of a No Deal Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme will continue to be implemented. However, as leaving the EU without a deal would mean that there would be no agreed implementation period, the UK Government would bring the application deadline forward to 31 December 2020 instead of 30 June 2021.