New rules for hiring migrant workers
Published 07 December 2020
In the new year freedom of movement between the UK and the European Union (EU) will end and it will have an impact on how employers recruit new staff.
On 1 January 2021 a new immigration system will come into force (1). It will treat all job applicants equally, regardless of where they come from.
For employers who wish to recruit from outside the UK, all of those excluding Irish citizens, will need to apply for permission first.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics for October to December 2019 show that there was an estimated 2.31 million EU nationals working in the UK, 36,000 more than a year earlier (2)
And, there was an estimated 1.34 million non-EU nationals working in the UK, 49,000 more than a year earlier
The introduction of a new points-based immigration system will mean that anyone who wants to come and work in the UK will have to meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points. Visas are then awarded to those who gain enough points.
The new system will not apply to European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss citizens already employed in the UK.
The EEA includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland is not an EU or EEA member, but is part of the single market. It means Swiss nationals have the same rights to live and work in the UK as other EEA nationals.
If EEA and Swiss citizens intend to continue working in the UK after 1 January 2021, they must apply for pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021 (3)
From the start of next year an employer will need to have a sponsor licence to hire most workers from outside the UK.
A sponsor licence provides an employer, regardless of its size, with the ability to employ non-settled citizens to fill a skilled vacancy. A licence is valid for an initial period of four years, with the option to renew.
The type of licence required will depend on whether the workers needed are those with long-term job offers and who therefore need a Worker Licence, or if they are being recruited on a temporary basis in which case they will need a Temporary Worker Licence.
Employers can apply for a licence covering one or both types of worker (4)
The different types of licence:
Will let a business employ people long-term or permanently. It is split into:
- Skilled Worker - the role must meet the job suitability requirements
- Intra-company visas - this includes Intra-company Transfer and Intra-company Graduate Trainee, for multinational companies which need to transfer established employees or graduate trainees to the UK
- Minister of Religion - for people coming to work for a religious organisation
- Sportsperson - for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK
Temporary Worker licence
Will let a business employ people on a temporary basis. It is split into:
- Creative or Sporting Worker - to work as a high-level sportsperson (up to 1 year), entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
- Charity Worker - for unpaid workers at a charity (up to 1 year)
- Religious Worker - for those working in a religious order or organisation (2 years)
- Government Authorised Exchange Worker - work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
- International Agreement Worker - where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, for example employees of overseas governments
- Seasonal Worker - for those coming to the UK for up to 6 months to do farm work
An employer should continue to check a job applicant’s right to work in the same way that it currently does now, up until 30 June 2021 (5). Until this date job applicants can prove their right to work in the following ways:
- EU, EEA or Swiss citizens can use their passport or national identity card
- non-EU, EEA or Swiss citizen family members can use an immigration status document
- EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members can use the online right to work checking service.
Employers must not discriminate against EU, EEA or Swiss citizens. You cannot require workers to show you their status under the EU Settlement Scheme until after 30 June 2021.
(1) On 1 January 2021 a new immigration system will come into force [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 7.12.2020] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-immigration-system-what-you-need-to-know
(2) Estimated 2.31 million EU nationals working in the UK [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 7.12.2020] https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/ukandnonukpeopleinthelabourmarket/february2020
(3) EU Settlement Scheme [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 7.12.2020] https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families
(4) Workers Licence [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 7.12.2020]https://www.gov.uk/uk-visa-sponsorship-employers/types-of-licence
(5) Right to work [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 7.12.2020] https://www.gov.uk/check-job-applicant-right-to-work
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