The UK Government has set a deadline for the UK to leave the EU on 31 October 2019. This means that, as of 1 November, it is expected that freedom of movement between the UK and EU countries will end, with no legislative provision. For businesses who employ EU workers, this is an uncertain time, and one which can make employers feel nervous about what the future holds for their business and employees.

EU membership affects businesses in a number of different ways, including:

  • Employing EU citizens
  • Providing goods and services to other EU member countries
  • Using goods and services provided by other EU member countries
  • Employment laws and rights are often set by EU directives
  • Borders and haulage agreements
  • Supply chain arrangements

On completion of Brexit, it is likely that all of these areas will be affected in some way, although until an agreement has been reached it is not possible to know exactly how this will work.

EU citizens working in the UK

For EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living and working in the UK, there will be no change in their right to work in the UK until 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. For employers this gives you a little bit of time to work out what you are going to do with employees who fall into this category, and give them time to do what is required of them to stay in the UK.

As an employer, you can check a job applicant’s right to work in the UK in exactly the same way that you currently do, right up until 1 January 2021.

An applicant who is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen can prove that they have a right to work in the UK using:

  • Their passport or national identity card
  • Their status under the EU Settlement Scheme or EU Temporary Leave Scheme, using the online right to work checking service from the Home Office
  • A biometric residence card if they are from a non-EU country, or an EEA or Swiss citizen family member

It is against the law to discriminate against EU, EEA or Swiss citizens, and they are not required to show you their status under the EU Settlement Scheme or European temporary leave to remain until 1 January 2021.

What happens after January 2021?

For those arriving to the UK after 1 January 2021, there will be a new immigration system which they will be required to follow. However, for people that you employ before this date, it is not necessary for you to undertake retrospective checks once the laws come into force.

For employees who have been in the UK for a few years and are currently employed, there should be no change in their right to work. If they continue to work then their residence rights are not affected by Brexit. However, if they stop working then they will need to have savings and sickness insurance to be able to stay in the country. They will also need to apply to the government for resident status. Once a person has lived and worked in the UK for more than five years, regardless of when they arrived, they need to make an application to the UK authorities for permanent residence status.

EU settlement scheme

On 15 August 2019, the Home Office sent out an email which stated that one million EU citizens had been granted settled status, in advance of Brexit. This means that there are still approximately 2 million EU citizens living in the UK who have not yet applied or had their status confirmed.

For those living in the UK permanently, settled status provides them with more rights and better advantages than they would otherwise have. For EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK, they will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for them and their families to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. If their application is successful, then they will be given either settled or pre-settled status.

Once they get settled or pre-settled status, these individuals will be able to:

  • Work in the UK
  • Study in the UK
  • Use the NHS
  • Access public funds (including benefits and pensions)
  • Travel freely in and out of the UK

Who else can apply for settled status?

It is not only EU, EEA and Swiss citizens that are able to apply for settled status. Citizens can also apply if:

  • They are the family member of a British citizen who lived in an EEA country with them.
  • They used to have an EU, EEA or Swiss family member living in the UK who has since separated from them or died.
  • They are the primary carer of a British, EU, EEA or Swiss citizen
  • They are the child of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who used to live and work in the UK

Who does not need to apply?

Not everyone that comes under these rules is required to apply for settled status. Citizens do not have to reply if they have:

  • Indefinite leave to enter the UK
  • Indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • British or Irish citizenship

Talking about Brexit in the workplace

For any large business, the likelihood is that Brexit will affect you in a variety of ways. For this reason it is so important that employers and employees feel comfortable discussing it together. An employer might want to know if an EU citizen employed in their company is intending to ask for settled status, whilst an EU employee may need reassurance that they will not lose their job whilst they apply for settled status.

To facilitate these types of conversations, employers need to:

  • Discretely ask for a private conversation with each employee so that they do not feel ‘called out’
  • Understand that this subject may be difficult or upsetting for the employee
  • Be mindful of their own emotions and fears so as not to put these onto the employee
  • Be clear in what they intend to do and what they require of their employees
  • Follow up regularly but gently and be willing to answer questions and provide support.

Wrapping up

To describe Brexit as a hot topic currently is somewhat of an understatement. It is set to affect the UK, it’s resident EU citizens and the economy significantly and there is still widespread uncertainty as to what the final outcome will be. For overseas individuals who have built a life and a career here there is understandable and widespread fear about what the future holds for them.

TFMC are monitoring the situation closely and are ready to help businesses who need advice about taxation compliance post Brexit. The team is here for advice via telephone on 0800 470 4820 or by emailing

Stuart Masters - Director at TFMC
Stuart Masters

Stuart has spent almost 20 years in accounting with a significant amount of time focused on Outsourcing and the provision of bookkeeping and financial management information for businesses.

Specialties: Bookkeeping, Management Accounts, Accounts Outsourcing, Business Development, Business Planning, Year End Accounts.