Post-Brexit Immigration And Employment: Considerations For Northern Irish Employers

Posted in : HR Updates on 21 October 2020
Emmet Owens
Think People
Issues covered: Brexit and Immigration; Prevent Illegal Working

Northern Ireland is globally renowned as a low-risk, cost-competitive location, that offers high quality, skilled workforce with proven experience in delivering services to UK, European and US clients in sectors such as IT, financial and legal services, business to business services and contact centres (InvestNI, 2020). Combined with low costs of living, house prices and quality of education, Northern Ireland has the potential to attract the best talent from other parts of the UK, Republic of Ireland and elsewhere overseas. 

The UK’s exit from the European Union on 31st December 2020 is likely to have an impact on your business, your current employees and your ability to attract new talent. Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced that a new immigration system which comes into play from 1 January 2021 will be “firmer, fairer and simpler” and will “lay the foundation for a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy”.

This means that from 11pm on 31st December 2020, freedom of movement for EU nationals will come to an abrupt end. A points-based immigration system designed to replace freedom of movement will then be introduced, meaning that anyone coming to the UK for work must meet a specific set of requirements, with visas awarded to those who gain enough points based on a set of tradable and mandatory characteristics which include: 

  • A job offer by an approved sponsor
  • The job should be at an appropriate skill level
  • The individual must speak English at a required level

This is billed as a simpler system; however, employers will need to adapt to these changes when recruiting from outside the UK, which includes the requirement for employers to be a Home Office licenced sponsor. Employers will also need to determine whether jobs on offer meet the required skill level and may have to pay fees associated with the sponsor licence and for each potential application.

The new system will not apply to EU citizens living in the UK by 31st December, however they will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme no later than 30th June 2021. 

These changes will not only affect the current labour market, and may seem excessive and inconvenient, but employers should consider the implications of non-compliance if employing workers form overseas, and their ability to remain competitive by attracting the best talent from outside the UK. Furthermore, Northern Ireland is the only UK territory which shares a land border with the EU; it is essential that businesses in Northern Ireland can continue to avail of workers from the Republic of Ireland following the UK’s exit from the EU in the event that there are any changes to the Common Travel Area.

Think People are hosting a webinar “Post-Brexit Immigration and Employment” on 19th November 2020, in partnership with Cleaver Fulton Rankin, one of Northern Ireland’s leading commercial law firms. This seminar will cover the introduction of the new immigration system, addressing the key areas of importance for businesses in Northern Ireland, including:

  • The impact of freedom of movement ending
  • The requirements for any business looking to employ talent from both the EU and outside the EU
  • The pressing need to consider obtaining a sponsor licence with the Home Office
  • Tier 2 visas for both EU and non-EU nationals
  • Considerations for HR and future proofing recruitment plans

For further information and to register, visit:

This article is correct at 21/10/2020

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Emmet Owens
Think People

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