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Can EU Citizens Work in the U.K.? A Post-Brexit Guide for Employers

By September 22, 2022No Comments

The short answer: Yes, EU citizens can still work in the U.K. But the logistics of how that happens can be complicated.

Businesses and citizens navigating Brexit — the word given to the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) departure from the European Union (EU) — have to adapt to many changes in their life and work. For example, in early 2021 Brexit ended free movement between the U.K. and EU. Previously, EU citizens and U.K. citizens were allowed to live and work freely in each respective locale.

Now, EU citizens and U.K. citizens are separate entities. EU citizens are people that were born in EU member states, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. U.K. citizens are citizens of England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

Whether or not EU citizens can still freely work in the U.K. (and vice-versa) is muddy. Let’s dive into some logistics for how U.K. employers can hire EU citizens, remotely or not.

Key takeaways: 

  • Post-Brexit, employers need to complete a right-to-work check for hires from the EU that will work in the United Kingdom
  • Fully remote employees that live outside of the U.K. don’t need a right-to-work check or sponsorship licence to commence employment with a U.K. company
  • EU citizens that already live and work in the U.K. do not need a retroactive right-to-work check

What Are Right-to-Work Checks? 

Right-to-work checks are post-Brexit measures that employers make to ensure new hires have the right to work in the United Kingdom. Employers conduct these checks during the onboarding process before the hire begins their employment.

Employers can check their prospective employees’ right to work in the country by using:

  • Their share code
  • Their date of birth

A share code is a code that applicants have solely for the purpose of proving they can legally work in the U.K. You need to make sure you conduct right-to-work checks for each employee you hire outside of the U.K., as you can face a penalty of up to £20,000 if you hire someone who can’t legally work in your country.

Can U.K. Employers Hire Remote Workers From the EU? 

Yes, the U.K. can hire remote workers that reside in the EU. In fact, this can be a little easier than hiring in-person workers in the country, since you won’t have to jump over the legal hurdles of getting employees to immigrate into the country.

A U.K. employer hiring a remote worker from the U.K. functions much like any employer hiring a remote employee from anywhere. You’ll have to consider the labour laws in your employee’s country of residence, including:

  • Minimum wage requirements
  • Mandatory holidays
  • Sick pay policies
  • Termination and severance

You’ll also need to consider taxesin your new hire’s country—many times, your employee’s home country will have laws in place to prevent them from paying taxes in multiple countries. You’ll need to figure out if this is true for your new hire to stay compliant.

Staying compliant is crucial for employers hiring in a foreign market to avoid penalties. An employer of record (EoR) helps make sure you know the ins and outs of labour laws in each employee’s home country.

Considerations for U.K. Employers Hiring EU Citizens

Say you have a fantastic remote interview with the perfect candidate from Greece. What now? Let’s dive into a few things U.K.-based employers need to know when hiring EU citizens.

Visas

The end of Brexit meant the end of free movement between the U.K. and the EU. While a Belgian citizen, for example, used to be able to live and work in England freely and without a visa, they now have to apply for the appropriate visa and get approved ahead of their employment. Keep in mind this is only for employees that want to live permanently in the U.K. for their work.

Also keep in mind that the U.K. now uses a points-based immigation system, which means they only issue visas to those who meet a specific set of criteria and are considered highly skilled. Criteria can be anything from a signed job offer letter to startup funding, depending on the employees sector.

Payroll

If your employee is moving to the U.K. to work for your company, you’ll put them onto your U.K. payroll. If they’re remaining remote, however, it won’t make sense to put them on your payroll—especially since that makes you run the risk of noncompliance.

That means you can do one of two things:

  • Create a permanent establishment in the foreign country
  • Pay employees through a third party, like an employer of record

Unless you hire a significant number of employees in one specific country, it most likely won’t make sense to set up a permanent establishment for each foreign employee. Usually, partnering with an EoR to help with your global payroll helps you compliantly pay your workforce no matter where they live.

Sponsorship 

If you want to hire an EU citizen to work in person at your U.K.-based company or remotely in the U.K., your employee needs to apply for a visa and you need to apply for a sponsor licence. This will allow you to sponsor your employee to live in the U.K. while they work for you.

There are some exceptions. Some employees either don’t require sponsorship to live and work in the U.K. or are grandfathered in by pre-Brexit policies. These people include:

  • Irish citizens
  • Those who settled in the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Those with indefinite leave to stay in the U.K.
  • Those who work remotely for your company from their home country

Hire EU Citizens for Your UK Business

There are many benefits to tapping into the European talent pool. Foreign employees provide a wealth of knowledge, experience, and perspective that can make your workplace thrive. But, when looking to hire abroad, you need to make sure you’re compliant with each employment and labour law—especially in the wake of a shake-up like Brexit.

Contact us to see how our global Employer of Record helps your company grow through any changing political landscapes.