A bit of reassurance about workers from other parts of Europe in the UK following Brexit

Should they stay or should they go?

It probably has not escaped your notice that the UK is leaving the European Union on 31 January. A lot of stone companies in the UK employ people from other parts of Europe. Some have already left the UK, which has been awkward for companies. They do not have to leave - not yet, anyway. 

There is a year (at least - it could be longer, whatever the Government promises to the contrary) of negotiations on trade deals. In the meantime, and probably also afterwards, people working in the UK will be able to continue to do so. So far it looks like this: EU nationals residing in the UK before 31 December 2020 will be eligible for 'settled status' if they have been resident in the UK for five years or more.

Settled status will give them the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely.

Those who have not lived in the UK for as long as five years can apply for 'pre-settled status', giving them the right to continue living and working in the UK until they reach the five-year mark, when they can apply for settled status.

The Government has published guidance on settled and pre-settled status for EU citizens and their families, which you can read here.

The settlement scheme is open for applications now. EU nationals in the UK have until 30 June 2021 to apply to stay. Individuals will need to apply for settled status even if they have previously obtained evidence of permanent residence status. Citizens of the other European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) and Swiss nationals can also apply for settled status under the settlement scheme. 

There might be some changes to UK employment law as time goes on. How many changes will depend on the trade deal agreed with the EU.

Although a fair bit of UK employment law comes from the EU, the UK’s withdrawal from the Union is unlikely to have much immediate impact on it, although it probably will in the years ahead.

The current Government seems to have a dilemma: it wants to remove workers' rights but it wants people to be paid more. Possibly it can achieve both by continuing to increase the minimum wage, including what is now called the 'living wage' for over 25-year-olds, at the same time as removing restrictions on hours worked, holiday requirements and job protection. 

There is a tool on the government website intended for employees to use to check they are receiving the minimum wage. Click here to go to it.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 repeals the European Communities Act 1972, but existing EU law will simply become domestic law. Most EU Directives are already implemented in the UK by regulations or Acts of Parliament - the EU equality directives, for example, come under the UK Equality Act 2010. It will be for Parliament to decide whether to retain, amend or repeal domestic legislation.

Many areas of UK law, including employment law, have been influenced by decisions from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) - working time, TUPE (covering workers rights when a company is sold) and discrimination, among others.

Under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, UK courts will no longer be bound by decisions of the ECJ made on or after the exit date of 31 January. Decisions made before then will not be changed immediately but might be altered over time. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-20 currently going through Parliament gives the Government the power to make regulations allowing lower courts and tribunals to deviate from existing EU case law, which is a significant change.

There are human resources firms that can help you make sure you comply with the laws and regulations as they change, which they are likely to do in the months and years ahead. One of them is XpertHR, which informed the report above.

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