Impact of Brexit on both UK and EU Employees

December 17, 2020
3 mins read
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Following a 2017 referendum, the UK officially announced that it would leave the European Union. Under the Withdrawal Agreement, there was a transition period whereby people and organizations had time to adjust and prepare for the UK’s exit.  Negotiations were also taking place and are still ongoing- to iron out all the withdrawal details and determine legal relations after the UK had left.

However, employers cannot wait until 1 January.  Organizations must prepare for the impact Brexit will have on their company in terms of employment.

Here are some general guidelines:

Brexit and withdrawal negotiations


According to the principle of free movement of persons under European Union legislation, EU citizens are entitled to live and work in any member state. In other words. EU citizens could work in the UK without any work permit. This principle remains intact until 31 December 2020.

Within the negotiation’s framework, the EU put the principle of reciprocity first: if the UK offers a simplified arrangement for a (short) stay in the UK, the EU will offer an equivalent system.

However, there is currently no agreement yet concerning the conditions of employment and residence between the EU and the UK  from 1 January 2021. For the time being, we must follow the general principles. This means, among other things, that all EU citizens will require a visa to reside in the UK, including an authorization to work in the UK. The same would apply to UK nationals working and living in any EU country.

Employees who were already legitimately working in the UK before  31 December 2020 and who have a valid residence there will maintain this right as long as they formalize their status with the government.


Work and residence of British employees in EU Countries from 1 January 2021

From 1 January 2021, UK nationals will require a work and residence permit to work and reside in a country in the EU. To be eligible for a work permit, a number of conditions have to be met.

UK nationals who travel to a European country for a short period (maximum 90 days in any rolling period of 180 days) will not require a visa. For specific short-term assignments, there will also be an exemption to hold a work permit depending on the nature and the length of the activities.


Work and residence for EU citizens and employees in the UK from 1 January 2021

To work in the UK (either a few days a week regularly or for a consecutive period), a work and residence permit is required from 1 January 2021.

There are 2 options:

  • The Skilled Worker-procedure (the new points-based system), which requires that the employer has an activity and presence in the UK.
  • The Global Talent Visa for highly skilled employees with a high level of expertise. This category of employees requires an endorsement from an independent pre-approved endorsing body. In practice, few employees meet the very high expertise demands.

It will be possible to travel without a visa to the UK for a short stay (maximum 90 days in any rolling period of 180 days).

Business travel will not require a specific visa either. However, the activities that can be performed during business travel are limited. Additional exceptions exist for specific categories of employees, such as scientists, athletes, researchers, academics, etc.


What steps can UK employees working in an EU country take to safeguard their right to work and residency?

UK employees who currently live (and work) in the EU may apply to maintain their right to residency. They have until 31 December 2020 to do so.

Based on their valid residence before or until 31 December 2020, they will not need a work permit to work there from 1 January 2021.


What steps can EU employees in the UK take to safeguard their right to work and residency?

EU employees who are working in the UK on 31 December 2020 may register for a pre-settled status, which will allow them to live and work in the UK for 5 years. If employees have lived at least 180 days in the UK in any rolling period of 12 months in a period of 5 years, they will be eligible for settled status and can stay in the UK indefinitely.

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