On 23 June 2016 the UK voted in the EU Referendum to leave the European Union (EU). A majority of the population voted to Leave, rather than Remain, triggering the start of preparations for the UK withdrawing from the bloc.
The Prime Minister used the 2016 Queen’s Speech to reiterate the government’s commitment towards protecting and enhancing worker rights following Brexit.
Although it is not clear what amendments may be made to employment law, or when any changes will take effect, it is possible to predict that some changes will take place. However, one area that will see change is the rights of EU nationals to work in the UK.
The date when the UK is expected to leave the EU (originally the 29 March 2019) was delayed to 31 October 2019. However, this has since been delayed again until 31 January 2020, although it could occur sooner if a deal was to be reached. This has implications for how the EU Settlement Scheme operates under a 'no deal' exit.
There is currently uncertainty over when 'Brexit day' will take place. Originally scheduled for 29 March 2019, this date was delayed to 31 October 2019 and has since been delayed again to 31 January 2020, but could take place sooner if a deal is reached before then.
Please bear in mind that a delayed departure from the EU will affect the guidance currently available from the Home Office and the government on Brexit matters, including the EU Settlement Scheme, when freedom of movement ends and any potential transition period.
Until 1 January 2021, the Home Office has confirmed that right to work checks on EU and EEA nationals will continue as normal, under the processes laid out within the prevention of illegal working guidance published in January 2019.
There will be no requirement on organisations to differentiate between those citizens who were resident in the UK before, or after, the date of the exit. Instead, the normal documentary or online right to work checks can be carried out (for more information, see our employment law pages on foreign nationals).
The Home Office had previously stated that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, free movement will end as soon as possible. Currently, it is understood that the freedom of movement afforded by the UK's involvement in the EU will come to an immediate end following 31 October 2019 if we do leave the EU without a deal.
In response, a new European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme is also to be introduced. This will essentially replace freedom of movement and allow EU nationals moving to the UK after Brexit, and up to the end of 2020, to obtain a temporary status lasting three years.
For stays longer than this period, the individual will be required to apply for leave to remain under the new immigration system which focuses on skills, set to be introduced from 2021.
These provisions will not apply for Irish citizens who remain entitled to live, and work, in the UK under the Common Travel Area. Further details can be found in our in-depth sections.