The Impact of Brexit for Employers: The human resources perspective

James Richardson | 11 December 2020

The Impact of Brexit for Employers: The human resources perspective

Our HR team take a moment to reflect the bearing that leaving the EU will have on employment law and to employers on a more practical, day-to-day level.


Employers have had more than enough to deal with this year and it’s understandable that the impact of leaving the EU may have slipped onto the back burner. However, Brexit is once again hitting the headlines as the media begin to report more readily on the situation now that we approach 31 December 2020, which marks the end of the Brexit transition period.

Organisations who operate directly, or have dealings with the EU as part of their business, will have operational concerns as to how this will affect them in continuing to provide their product, or service. 

Even if you do not believe your business will be impacted operationally by Brexit, from a human resources perspective it is important that all businesses ensure they have considered the effect that leaving the EU will have on their workforce. Our advice on how to ensure you are Brexit ready is outlined below.

31 December 2020     End of the transitional period

1 January 2021     

New immigration system introduced


30 June 2021    

Extended deadline for settled status applications for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens in the UK before 1 January 2021

What does the end of the transition period mean?

Without a deal with the EU in place, this means as we move into 2021 the right of free movement for UK nationals in the EU, and EU nationals in the UK, will stop. This essentially means it will be harder for individuals from the UK to live and work in Europe, and harder for the EU nationals to live and work in the UK.

This is effective from 01 January 2021 and EU/EEA/Swiss nationals living in the UK will be required to apply for settled status before 30 June 2021.

Be aware that EU citizen staff who are already in the UK or arrive before 1 January 2021 can continue to work without needing to show evidence of their settlement status until 1 July 2021.

Brexit Ready

Ensuring that your workforce and organisation is ready for Brexit from a HR perspective is twofold:

  • Right to Work Checks

Firstly, it is important to make sure your right to work processes are adequate and the checks you have already conducted have been compliant. It’s crucial to ensure your practice is to ask to see originals, check the documents provided thoroughly, make copies and finally, sign and record the date the check was made.

Any individual who does not have an indefinite right to remain will need to be highlighted so that you can liaise with them to ensure appropriate steps are being taken.

It is your responsibility as an employer to make sure you have carried out adequate right to work checks. This means you may need to audit your records to make sure you have an up to date picture of any concerns in regards to right to work status of your workforce.

You will need to do this in order to ensure you have an accurate picture of who in your workforce will be impacted by the UK leaving the EU.

  • Supporting EU Nationals

EU Nationals will need to have made an application under the settlement scheme by 30 June 2021.

Once you have identified any staff who will be impacted by Brexit, you can look at supporting existing employees who are EU nationals apply to the EU settlement scheme, to make sure they have the right to stay in the UK.

There are no legal obligations that specifically outline that you must support staff with their applications, but as their employer it would reasonable to provide help where necessary.  As a minimum we would recommend signposting the staff to the relevant scheme, offer support as necessary and providing reminders as the deadline approaches.

Here is a link to the government’s settlement scheme application

Other Practicalities

Although not relevant to all employers, it is also worth noting the following practical issues that may affect your business:

  • Regulated professions may need qualifications to be ‘officially recognised’ after the transitional period if the qualifications were not attained in the UK. Where possible, you should aim to support employees to seek recognition from the relevant bodies as soon as possible.
  • Leaving the EU doesn’t mean that UK nationals will be unable to continue travelling and working abroad, however, it will be necessary to ensure that UK employees apply for relevant visas and permits in specific EU countries, which may be relevant even if working only for a few days. Therefore, it will need to be considered and support provided to ensure the relevant paperwork is in place for travel.

Are there any increased costs?

Unfortunately, our leaving of the EU will mean some additional costs if no deal is secured to offset this.  If an employer chooses to take on non-UK workers from 2021, they will also need to be aware of the increased costs involved:

  • In order to recruit non-UK nationals a sponsorship licence will be required. The current cost for this is £1,536 for medium and large businesses and £536 for small businesses (future fees to be confirmed).
  • For each individual sponsored, an Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) will be applicable. Currently set at £1,000 (or £364 for small or charitable sponsors) for the first 12 months of a worker’s employment with a sponsor, and £500 (or £182 for small or charitable sponsors) for each subsequent six months.

Further support

We understand that this is a particularly difficult time and that it can feel as though the challenges you have to deal with as an employer and business owner are never ending - remember that you are not alone in feeling like this decisions where necessary and support is available. If you are currently experiencing any difficulties, or even just have some questions, and would like to discuss your organisation in more detail then please do not hesitate to talk to us for further support and guidance.

To discuss how we can help you and your business in more detail, please speak to a member of our HR team directly, via the contact details below.

 Click here to see James Richardson's profile and contact details
 Click here to see Lois McMurtrie's profile and contact details
 Click here to see Louise McCosh's profile and contact details



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