2 March 2020

Immigration post-Brexit: What employers should consider when hiring EU citizens

The Home Office has published its policy paper setting out the main features of a new proposed immigration system, which is due to come into effect in January 2021.

The policy statement, issued on 19 February 2020, summarises the UK’s new “points-based immigration system” which all EU and non-EU citizens will be subject to from January 2021 (i.e. after the Brexit transition period, which expires on 31 December 2020).

Key take-aways from the policy statement:

  • There will be no special post-Brexit system for EU citizens: EU citizens looking to come to the UK from 2021 will face the same visa system as everybody else.
  • Generally, all migrant workers will need to have a UK sponsor. Details of how sponsorship will work are not yet published, but will likely be similar to the current regime for employers employing non-EU nationals, requiring them to apply for a licence from the Home Office. Sponsors are subject to scrutiny from the Home Office and are required to have sufficient systems and processes in place to ensure their sponsor licence is not abused. Employers who have not needed a sponsor licence in the past should consider applying for one.
  • The Government has said that there are no plans to introduce a general “low-skilled” or temporary work visa routes (as had been envisaged). There has been much criticism about the lack of special routes to the UK for those wanting to work in social care, agriculture and other sectors which rely on “low-skilled” workers; the Government says that there are sufficient people already living in the UK who can fulfil these roles. We suspect that the Home Office will be lobbied by representatives of in these sectors, anticipating labour shortages in these areas.
  • Unless certain exceptions apply, migrants must be coming to do a role at a certain skill level (known as “RQF3”, equivalent to A levels). However, the salary for the role must be at least £25,600 per annum. Whilst requiring the role to be at RQF3 (which is lower than the skill level under the current sponsorship system for non-EU citizens, being RQF6 (equivalent to degree level)), the minimum salary will, in practice, exclude many of the low-skilled roles currently performed by EU citizens (e.g. in the hospitality and leisure sectors).
  • All migrants wishing to want to come to the UK will need to be able to speak English.
  • The Government has indicated that the resident market labour test (requiring employers to advertise the role for 28 days in the UK to try and find a settled worker before sponsoring a migrant worker), will no longer be required.

If you would like any further information about the changes and how Forsters might be able to assist, please contact Joe Beeston, Senior Employment Associate in our Employment team.

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