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Brexit Changes From 1 January 2021

News Article Brexit _111220

Know Your Responsibilities As A Employer

When the UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020, the UK was then no longer a Member State of the European Union and entered a transition period due to end on 31 December 2020. 

Although Brexit negotiations appeared to be at an impasse, with an agreement being reached before the 31 December 2020 deadline looking highly unlikely, the Prime Minister remained optimistic that an agreement could still be reached at this late stage. 

Four-and-a-half years after the 2016 Brexit referendum, on 24 December 2020 Boris Johnson declared “the deal is done” after striking a historic trade pact between the UK and EU, which meant that Britain had “taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters”.

From 1 January 2021, the UK officially left the EU and new rules for businesses and citizens took effect from this date. For employers who currently employ EU citizens, we have provided the following advice and guidance.


Employers recruiting non-UK citizens will need to apply to the Home Office to become a licensed sponsor and pay the applicable fee dependant upon their business size. Other additional charges will include an Immigration Skills Charge for each worker and visa charges (which could extend to dependants of the skilled migrant). 

From 1 January 2021, the UK’s new points-based immigration system will commence, marking the end of the free movement between the EEAU and UK. 

Under the new immigration system, both EU and non-EU (excluding Irish citizens) will need to have scored 70 points against a list where amongst others, requirements include: Having a job offer from an approved sponsor, at an appropriate skill level with a minimum salary of £20,480 and an ability to speak English at a required level. All non-UK citizens will be subject to an Immigration Health Surcharge of £400 per year, with the exception of health and care staff.

Sponsorship Licence

Employers who do not hold a valid sponsorship licence will be unable to hire migrant workers coming to the UK after 1 January 2021 or extend visas for current sponsored employees. All sponsors have to be fully aware of their immigration duties and have processes and systems in place to meet these requirements and maintain records as evidence of their compliance. 

The only indicated barrier to gaining a sponsorship licence is a previous conviction for breach of immigration laws. It is important that employers keep up to date with any changes which are implemented to the sponsorship scheme. For further information please visit: https://www.gov.uk/uk-visa-sponsorship-employers

EU Settlement Scheme

Employees who are EU citizens should have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021 in order to be able to continue to live and work in the UK. It is the responsibility of the employee to make an application to the EU Settlement Scheme.

If an EU national fails to make an application, they will be left “undocumented”. This means that they will lose their rights to healthcare, employment, rental property, and state benefits. There are no exceptions to this application requirement and it will not matter how long an EU national has already lived in the UK.

Provided an employer has conducted a right to work compliancy check for an EU national who was in their employment before 1 January 2021, you do not need to repeat the process again when the right to freedom of movement ends on 31 December 2020. Neither does the employer have to carry out any checks on their employees to confirm that they have been granted pre-settled or settled status. These rules also apply to EEA and Swiss citizens. 

Communicating to Your EU Employees

If you have not already done so, our advice would be to communicate what is required to all employees rather than single out the non-EU citizens (to avoid any discrimination claims). This will show that you are being a supportive employer reminding them of their obligations and will also help you avoid not having sufficient staff from 30 June 2021.

The application for the EU Settlement Scheme is free and immediately available to apply online. To start the application process, employees can follow the GOV.UK link https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying -for-settled-status

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Disclaimer: Please note this is not legal advice on your circumstances and HR:4UK are not qualified to give medical advice. Our advice is based on our understanding of the information currently available and may be subject to change as and when more guidance becomes available.

Angela Clay

A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.