A reminder from the ‘forgotten man’ of politics

Oct 03, 2020

Employers continue to focus on the impact of Covid-19 but human resources specialist Helen Smith, of Crescita HR-OD, reminds us that transition’s end is looming and a post-Brexit world will begin in 2021.

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Helen Smith

SINCE February, everyone’s focus has been on the global pandemic and dealing with new ways of working, absence, social distancing and sadly, bereavement. While we have been dealing with this considerable distraction, many people may have forgotten that Brexit has continued to plod along, albeit in a socially distanced manner. 

As a recap, the UK left the European Union on January 31 this year and we are currently almost all the way through the transition period, which is due to end on December 31 2020. This end date has not changed as a result of Covid-19.  

From January 1 2021 a new world will begin, one which will be completely alien to many people like myself who have only ever known the United Kingdom as being part of the European Union.

While much of the chatter on the news at the moment is around trade deals and import/export tariffs that will become applicable to those whose business involves overseas trading, there are a number of changes on the horizon that will affect employment of individuals from Europe and equally, those UK citizens who are living and working in Europe.

In July, while most people were focused on Covid-19, the government published further details of the skills-based immigration system that will come into force from next year. Some of the key points to be aware of include:

No more freedom of movement

Under the new scheme, EU migrants looking for work in the UK will be treated the same as those from the rest of the world. EU citizens who are currently living and working in the UK will be allowed to apply for ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status and with that, to continue to live and work in the UK. Applications for this scheme will be open until June 30 2021.

Employers as Home Office Licensed Sponsors

From January 1 2021, those employers wishing to recruit from outside of the UK resident labour market will have to be a licensed sponsor with the Home Office. 

Existing sponsors will be granted a new skilled worker licence or Intra-Company Transfer licence, which will run for the duration of the company’s existing licence. With this licence, they will be allocated an appropriate number of certificates of sponsorship.

Businesses which are not currently sponsors will have to apply to the Home Office for a licence, which will take at least eight weeks from the time that the application is received by the Home Office. To apply to become a licenced sponsor, you will need to:

  • Check that your business is eligible. You cannot apply if you have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or other crimes such as fraud or money-laundering;
  • Decide what type of licence you wish to apply for. A general purpose licence which allows for applicants to come into the business from overseas or an ICT licence. The latter provides a route for larger multi-national organisations to temporarily move key personnel into the UK;
  • Identify those within your business who will manage the sponsorship process These should include an authorising officer at a senior or executive level, a key contact who will become the main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration and a level 1 user, who will manage the licence on a day-to-day basis. These roles can be filled by one or multiple individuals depending on the size of the business; 
  • Apply online and pay the fee.

Fees for small businesses – those with annual turnover of £10.2 million or less and with 50 or fewer employees – or charitable sponsors will be £536 for all types of licences. Medium or larger sponsors will pay between £536 and £1,476 dependent upon the type of licence. These fees were correct in July 2020 but subject to review.

Points-based Immigration for Skilled Workers

Skilled workers wishing to work in the UK will have to demonstrate that:

  • The job offer is at the required level (A-level or equivalent and above) (20 points);
  • They speak English to the required level (10 points).

The job offer must also meet the applicable minimum salary threshold which will be the higher of either the general salary threshold set by the government (currently £25,600 per annum) or the ‘going-rate’ for the specific occupation.  

The allocation of points will either be ‘mandatory’ or ‘tradeable’ so they may be able to acquire points if:

  • Their salary is below the minimum threshold but they are applying to work in an area which has been designated as a ‘specific shortage occupation’;
  • They hold a PhD relevant to the job for which they are applying;
  • They hold a PhD in a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subject relevant to the job. 

Applicants will need to achieve a minimum of 70 points to be granted a visa. However, there are other routes open to those wishing to come to the UK to work. These include:

  • Global Talent route;
  • Graduate route;
  • Start-up and Innovator;
  • Health and Care visa;
  • Creative route;
  • Sporting routes;
  • Youth Mobility Scheme. 

A seasonal workers pilot for agriculture is also being run until the end of 2020 when a decision will be taken as to whether it will continue under the points-based system.

The new points-based immigration scheme means that there is no route for low-skilled workers to come to work in the UK and this may impact adversely on those who rely on low-skilled workers from Europe such as those within the retail, hospitality and construction sectors.

We continue to live and work in challenging times and we will wait to see how these changes impact upon businesses, already reeling from the effects of Covid-19, in the coming months.

Stay safe and well.

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