How Brexit just shook up your Right to Work as a contractor in the UK

The UK’s Right To Work (RTW) requirements have changed post-Brexit, and contractors may face new requests from recruitment and umbrella companies to re-verify their ongoing entitlement to work, writes Crawford Temple, founder and CEO of Professional Passport.

Employers still have a requirement to carry out RTW, and risk heavy penalties and fines should they employ an illegal worker or failed to meet the requirements of the Statutory Excuse. In simple terms, those requirements are to meet face-to-face or via video-phone with original documents and retaining copies and details.

What about EU nationals already in UK prior to December 31st 2020?

Since Brexit, workers from the European Economic Area and Swiss Nationals are now in a transition period.

From January 1st 2021 until June 30th 2021, EEA and Swiss nationals who are already in the UK as a result of the previously allowable ‘free movement,’ which ended on December 31st 2020, can still evidence their right to work through their –

  • passport,
  • national identity card;
  • permanent residence card; and/or
  • registration certificate confirming a permanent residence in the UK.

However, after June 30th 2021, these workers will either need to provide their status confirmation certificate under the EU Settlement Scheme and/or appropriate visas or permits, in line with nationals from any other country.

Companies will be carrying out audits of their workers to identify those where the requirements have changed. And so contractors and other workers may face new requests to prove their ongoing entitlement to work.

But to be clear - a permanent residence card does not prove your right to work.

Workers in this category who do not already have a right to work will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, which you can do online for free. To qualify you must have started living in the UK before December 31st 2020.

Interestingly, employers cannot demand to see your application to the scheme -- but you must provide the evidence that you have been accepted by the deadline to be able to continue to work. Employers face penalties if this is not provided and you continue to work, as you would be considered an illegal worker.

The guidance for employers wanting to read up on RTW is available.

Other country workers and those from the EU post-January 1st 2021

Over and above the changes as a result of Brexit and the UK’s-EU Brexit deal, a new points-based immigration scheme has been introduced for individuals eyeing the UK.

Any worker intending to come to the UK from January 1st 2021, from either the EU or any other part of the world (Irish citizens are exempt), will need to apply in advance.

The points-based system is geared in favour of skilled workers and the applicant must achieve at least 70 points to be considered.

Making life simpler

As a contractor, you will be repeatedly asked to confirm your RTW which will require you to provide documents such as your passport, national identity cards and visa(s). These will all be copied and held by your hiring company.

The good news is that there is now an online right to work checking service. Workers can complete the process online and receive their confirmation. You can access this service here.

When asked by a recruitment company, umbrella company or employer to prove your right to work, contractors who use the service can then provide these parties with a ‘share code’ that allows them to access and confirm the check and your RTW.

Move now to avoid the melee

It is intended that after the June deadline of the transition period, for EU workers, this will be the only system available to employers to check and verify the status of any new EU employee who has been resident in the UK prior to December 31st 2020. If you fall into this category, it is certainly worth getting on to the new system in readiness!

Finally, I’d urge everyone affected not to miss the Right to Work changes as a result of Brexit and fortunately, the Home Office has produced a comprehensive guide for employers on RTW, including details of how to use the government’s online checking service.

Wednesday 17th Feb 2021
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Written by Crawford Temple

Crawford Temple is the CEO and founder of Professional Passport which is the largest independent assessor of provider compliance in the UK. Established in 2007, Professional Passport provides an independent compliance standard for the payment intermediaries market in an attempt to create a more level playing field across the sector and provide a positive differentiation for those providers operating in line with those standards.
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