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How to Hire EU Citizens After Brexit: A Guide for UK Companies

With the conclusion of Brexit and the UK’s departure from the European Union, UK employers may find there are new challenges with hiring EU citizens.  Previously, EU nationals could enter the UK and work without a visa under the EU’s right to travel policy.  Now, that has all changed, but there are some caveats and exceptions to maintain an employee’s right to work or to meet the work visa requirements.

This guide will discuss how UK companies can still employ EU employees post-Brexit, and the options for sponsoring work permits.

EU Settlement Scheme

As part of the Brexit agreement, there is an EU settlement scheme that will apply to some EU citizens, and allow them to work in the UK visa-free.  There is a similar program in the EU to accommodate certain UK workers. The basic idea is that if the employee were already in the UK before Brexit concluded they can remain working there unaffected.

The specific rule is that if the employee had started to work in the UK prior to December 31, 2020, they can apply to settle under the scheme until June 30, 2021.  It is not automatic, and they do have to formally apply.  There are also certain conditions under which they can leave the UK for a period of time without losing their right to work.  As their employer, you will want to make sure they apply in time and understand the restrictions.

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How UK companies can hire EU citizens after Brexit

EU employees hired after December 31, 2020, will need a work visa just like any foreign national wanting to work in the UK; or they will need to work remotely from their home country which is an increasingly popular option.

Get a sponsor license and sponsor your employee

To obtain a work visa for your EU employee, you will need to get a license to sponsor the visa.  The ‘worker license’ is for long-term skilled positions, with a suitable salary level.  There is a points-based immigration system to determine if the employee meets the requirements.

The criteria include:

  • A job offer from an approved UK sponsor
  • Job skill level ‘A”
  • Ability to speak English
  • Minimum salary of GBP 25,600 per year
  • If less than the minimum salary, ‘points’ can be traded against the salary amount to qualify
  • Examples of ‘points’ include being in a ‘shortage occupation’ or having a Ph.D. degree

Use an employer of record to hire your EU employee remotely

If your company doesn’t want to go through the work visa process, there is another option that may work for some positions, which is to hire the EU employee in their own country using an employer of record (EOR).  This way you can avoid bringing the employee to the UK and sponsoring a work permit, and allow them to work remotely for your company.

The EOR will become the legal employer in the employee’s country, and handle all parts of employment administration including running payroll and withholding taxes.  Your company simply remits the compensation each month to the EOR for disbursement.  The EOR would make sure that you were in compliance with all of the foreign country’s employment regulations, and you would have no obligations in the UK for the employee.

Do you need more information about hiring in the UK?

You may have other questions about hiring employees in the UK such as:

If I hire a remote employee inside the UK what expenses can be reimbursed for work from home arrangements? 

What happens if a UK company terminates an employee who is working under the settlement scheme?  Can they look for another position without needing a visa?

Are family members included in the visa-free settlement scheme for employees, even if they were not living in the UK prior to Brexit?

Brexit is one example of how cross-border trade can become a challenge for employers when a country decides to change alliances.  As employment and immigration regulations fluctuate rapidly, our clients will often turn to us for guidance on how best to stay ahead of changes to laws that may affect their employees. 

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The information in this article is subject to changes in local legislation.

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