On 31 January 2020 the UK left the European Union (EU). Since then, we have been in a ‘transition period’ which will end on 31 December 2020. This will mean as of the 1 January 2021, EU law will be converted to domestic law however, the UK Supreme Court will still be bound by the decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) made before this date as if it were its own case law.
Chapter 2 of the Withdrawal Agreement (Agreement) sets out the rights of workers and self-employed persons. The Agreement ensures these persons will continue to be able to benefit from their current workers’ rights based on EU law (subject to the EU law limitations) and therefore workers will see no change unless or until changed by any subsequent domestic legislation. In effect, this means that everything is staying the same.
Articles 24 and 25 confirm workers or self-employed persons shall continue to benefit from:
• the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of nationality as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment;
• the right to take up and pursue an activity in accordance with the rules applicable to the nationals of the host State or the State of work;
• the right to assistance afforded by the employment offices of the host State or the State of work as offered to own nationals;
• the right to equal treatment in respect of conditions of employment and work, in particular as regards remuneration, dismissal and in case of unemployment, reinstatement or re‐employment;
• the right to social and tax advantages;
• collective rights;
• the rights and benefits accorded to national workers in matters of housing; and
• the right for their children to be admitted to the general educational, apprenticeship and vocational training courses under the same conditions as the nationals of the host State or the State of work, if such children are residing in the territory where the worker works.
The Agreement will also protect the rights of frontier workers or frontier self-employed persons in the countries where they work as well as the recognition of professional qualifications.
Although, for now, nothing will change for employees and the self-employed, there are substantial changes for employers in the area of immigration and the rules are changing radically. Employers would be wise to conduct an audit of their workforce in order to identify which employees are EEA nationals in the UK or British nationals in EEA and may wish to offer assistance with employees’ applications for settled or pre-settled status. For employers with large scale future recruitment requirements, it would be sensible to also look at obtaining a sponsor licence.