EU Settlement Scheme – What employers need to know
With the EU Settlement Scheme deadline only seven days away, many employers are wondering what they should do to help ensure that their staff from the EU can continue to live and work in the UK.
This blog aims to answer some of the most pressing questions about the Scheme and outlines what businesses can do to prepare for the deadline.
What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
Almost six months ago on the 31st December 2020, the Brexit transition period came to a close. As a result, freedom of the movement between the UK and EU ended meaning EU citizens, with the exception of Irish citizens, no longer have an automatic right to live and work in the UK.
The EU Settlement Scheme was introduced to offer EU (and EEA and Swiss) citizens who were already living in the UK before the 31st December 2020 the right to apply to remain in the UK.
In order to allow EU citizens time to apply for the Scheme, the Government implemented a grace period which preserves their right to live and work in the UK until the Settlement Scheme closes in just seven days time on the 30th June 2021.
EU citizens who have been in the UK for less than five years are eligible to apply for pre-settled status which, if their application is successful, will offer them a five-year visa. For those who have been in the UK for five continuous years or more, they can apply for indefinite leave to remain. Both these statuses offer EU citizens the right to work in the UK, use the NHS, enrol in education, access benefits or pensions if eligible and continue studying.
The Scheme is free and EU citizens can apply by visiting the Government’s website here. Applicants may be required to submit proof of EU nationality, proof of UK residency and to declare any criminal convictions.
What happens if an application is not made?
Government guidance has stated that if an application is not made by the deadline of the 30th June 2021, the individual will be unlawfully resident in the UK and will lose their right to live and work here. They may also lose access to healthcare, housing and study and be at risk of detention and removal.
Although the Government has stated they may offer flexibility for late applications in rare circumstances where there are reasonable grounds for the application being late, such as if an adult has not made an application on behalf of their eligible child, there is no guarantee that any discretion will be exercised, which means it is of vital importance that EU citizens apply before the deadline.
What can employers do?
Applications for the Scheme are made by individuals and there is no obligation for the applicant to be in employment. Therefore, officially employers have no role to play in the process.
However, as the Scheme is not automatic and requires EU citizens to submit an application in order to retain their right to work, it may be in the business’ interest for employers to raise awareness of the Scheme to staff and direct them to the Government’s guidance.
Employers should be aware that there is no responsibility on the individual to inform their employer of their application status and they should not attempt to check whether or not an employee has applied.
There will be no change to right to work checks until after 30th June and employers will not be required to undertake retrospective checks on existing EU employees.
Where can employers find more information and resources?
The Government’s European Settlement Scheme toolkit for employers, which includes detailed guidance and resources to support the communication of the scheme to employees, can be found here.
The Home Office is hosting online sessions covering the scheme, including late applications, Right to Work Checks and support for EU Nationals. Details of these sessions can be found here.
The Government has created a postcode tool to help applicants find local support if needed when applying to the scheme. This tool can be here.