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Five HR steps for managing Brexit compliance


The official “Brexit date” was 1 January 2020, but it has taken a further year for real changes to come into place with the leaving of the customs union and single market on 31 December 2020. When it comes to staffing, there is still some further time before the changes come.

The date for employees from the EU/EEA/Swiss nationals (and their families) to apply for settled or pre-settled status is 30 June 2021.

Employers have always had a responsibility to make sure all employees have the right to work in the UK, and this responsibility adds a new layer of complexity which employers need to be prepared for ahead of the deadline.

Here are some simple steps HR should take for new and existing staff.


Step 1 – Take control

The requirements for EU workers will be changing in June 2021 and so it is now more essential than ever to check you have the correct Right to Work documentation on record.

Manage this as you would any other project. Put a person in charge, discuss the resources needed and set dates for reviewing the progress. Introducing a structure early on should help your business stay on top of the process and ensure compliance.


Step 2 – Audit

An audit of your existing paperwork is a crucial step in your journey to being Brexit ready from a staff perspective.

If you are confident in your existing procedures around ensuring staff have the right to work, this may just be a case of completing a spot check, and identifying staff that will be affected as a result of the change (i.e. those from Europe who will need to apply for settled or pre-settled status).

If you know there are gaps in your procedures using Brexit as a catalyst to overhaul how you review right to work documentation would be prudent.

Where you are not confident in the documentation you hold, you could arrange for all staff, including those you believe to be UK nationals, to submit their documentation.

You need to see the original documentation, but electronic copies are acceptable so moving to a paperless system either using HR software or Microsoft packages could be a good way forward to help you manage the process going forward.


Step 3 – Conversation

Having an early conversation with staff you have identified as being from Europe about their intentions is the next logical step from here.

If the employee intends to stay and work in the UK, they will need to apply for settled or pre-settled status. This can be done through the government website, though support should be offered as it can be a daunting process. Further support is available through home country embassies and specific charities.

If the employee tells you that they do not intend to stay in the UK and will not be applying for settled status or pre settled status, as of 1 July 2021 this employee would no longer be able to work for you and it is important this is clear to them through your discussions.



Step 4 – Written notification

Regardless of whether the employee intends to stay or leave this summer, you must provide them with written notification of the requirement to have confirmation of settled or pre-settled status by the 30 June 2021.

The written notification should make clear what will happen if the employee doesn’t have the confirmation by this date.


Step 5 – Preparing for the future

The Visa requirements have changed for those outside the EU coming to work here too. The long talked about points-based system will now apply to all of those wishing to work in the UK. It’s worth familiarising yourself with the new requirements and developing a recruitment strategy around this.

It’s also worth being aware of the Youth Mobility Scheme which allows those from certain countries, aged 18-30, to come and work in the UK for two years (provided all qualification criteria is met).

Similarly, the Temp Visa allows workers to enter the UK for a fee and take up short term work of no longer than two years. This may be very helpful should you employ seasonal workers.


Bonus tip – time

June already feels like a lifetime away, but it will come round quicker than we all think. The sooner you start the processes to ensure all those effected by Brexit have the correct right to work documentation then the less disruptive this will be on your business.

Louise McCosh is HR director at professional services firm French Duncan.