The EU Settlement scheme (EUSS) opened for applications in March 2019 and to date 1.3 million EU/EEA and Swiss citizens have applied for settled or pre settled status. Following Brexit the status of EU/EEA citizens working in the UK will change and after the introduction of the skills based immigration system in 2021 European citizens will need permission to work in the UK. Employers need to understand these changes and how their current and future employees may be affected.

Settled status will usually be awarded when an individual has lived in the UK for a continuous 5 year period (with some exceptions) or for those with less than 5 years continuous residence the application is likely to result in pre settled status as long as the individual started living in the UK by 31st December 2020 or by the date the UK leaves the EU if there is no deal. Once the 5 year residence period has been achieved a further application for settled status can then be made.

Recognising the valuable contribution they make to their business many employers are now talking to their employees about the EU settlement scheme. It is however the responsibility of the individual to make an application to the scheme and there is no requirement to inform an employer of the application or the outcome. Employers are not required to check if an employee has applied to the scheme.

Current Right to Work checks will continue to apply until the end of 2020 and there will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens until 30th June 2021. If the UK leaves the EU with no deal the date will change to 31st December 2020. EU citizens can also provide evidence of their Right to Work status by using an online service if they wish, but are under no obligation to do so.

The government guideline are clear that employers have a duty not to discriminate against EU/EEA citizens in light of the decision to leave the EU. This applies to both current and prospective employees. Employers cannot make an offer of employment or continued employment based on whether individuals have applied to the EUSS.

The guideline also say that employers will not be required to undertake retrospective checks on existing EU citizens when the the future skilled based immigration system is introduced.

Employers should be careful not to provide immigration advice but can guide employees to the information provided by the government and a number of leaflets and posters are available on the government website for this purpose.

Guidance on the EU settlement scheme can be found at gov.uk/eu-settled-status.