Brexit – Right to Work


The transition period for the UK exiting the EU expires on 31 December 2020, at which point there will be no more free movement of people. To replace free movement, the Government are introducing an Immigration Bill which will see the introduction of a new points-based immigration system. In this hot topic we explore what is entailed with this new system and what it will mean for employers and recruitment.

Brexit – where are we now

The UK is no longer a member of the European Union and is currently in a transitional period in which the UK and EU must negotiate terms for the new relationship moving forward.  This transition period ends on 31 December 2020 and at which point the free movement of people will end. 

Whilst the deadline for agreeing a deal has passed, at the time of writing, it is expected that negotiations will continue into the first couple of weeks of November.  However, whether there is much scope for negotiations to continue past this, is uncertain given the work involved in ratifying any new agreement into UK legislation and the need for it to go through parliament in time for 31 December.

Recruiting workers from outside the UK from January 2021

From 1 January 2021, EU nationals wishing to live and work in the UK will be required to apply to work in the UK through a new points-based immigration system.  EU and non-EU nationals will therefore be treated equally in respect of coming to the UK to work. 

Points Based Immigration System

EU nationals will be able to apply to work in the UK as a skilled worker.   Through this skilled worker route, the job they are applying for must have a suitable rate of pay and skill level, as defined by the UK’s immigration rules. The Government’s guidance on immigration rules is due to be updated to expand the full list of occupations that will be available.

All skilled jobs have been given a standard occupational classification code (SOC) and each SOC then has a designated skill level which determines whether the job meets the requirements of the skilled worker route.  At the time of writing, the list of codes is subject to change, but can be found in the following government publication. 

Assuming the job meets the required pay and skill level, job applicants will need to score 70 points in which to work within the UK.  People will be able to earn points by trading characteristics against a lower salary. The Government have announced the following characteristics and points that can be attained:

Characteristic Mandatory or TradeablePoints
Job Offer (approved by Sponsor)Mandatory20
Job Offer at appropriate skill levelMandatory20
Speaks English at the required levelMandatory10
Salary between £20,480 and £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is the highest)Tradeable0
Salary between £23,040 and £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is the highest)Tradeable10
Salary between £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is the highest)Tradeable20
Job Offer in a shortage occupationTradeable20
Education Qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job offerTradeable10
Education Qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job offerTradeable20


Anybody wishing to work in the UK as a skilled worker will need to demonstrate that:

1.     They have a job offer from a Home Office licenced sponsor

2.     The job offer is at the required skill level (RQF3 or above, which is A level or equivalent)

3.     They speak English to the required standard

4.     The salary must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold which is the higher of either

a.     The general salary threshold set by the Government on advice of the independent migration advisory committee at £25,600 or

b.     The specific salary requirement for their occupation known as the “going rate”

Where the job offer is between £20,480 and the minimum threshold of £25,600, the applicant may still be eligible, but only if:

·         The job offer is for a specific shortage occupation

·         A PhD is relevant to the job

·         A PhD in a STEM subject (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that is relevant to the job.

Other Routes into the UK and Right to Work Checks

For more information on the other key Brexit ‘Right to Work’ topics listed below, read the full article at

·         Sponsor Licence (Recruiting from outside the UK)

·         Other Routes into the UK

·         Right to Work Checks

·         Impact on Recruitment

·         What Should Businesses Do Next?

·         Further Information Links to Government Guidance Publications.

Further HR Guidance

·         HR Knowledge Base: as part of your PRCA membership you can get access to the HR Knowledge Base, which is the go-to resource for thousands of business owners and managers across the UK.  The HR Knowledge Base includes HR documents, templates, legal updates, news and hot topic articles as well as access to free webinars and HR seminars.  To find out more call 0844 324 5840 or visit

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