Changes to Prevention of Illegal Working Guidelines related to EU Accession Workers

The UK Border Agency recently published an updated version of its “Full guide for employers on preventing illegal working in the UK.” The new version includes updated guidance on employing accession workers legally.

Bulgarian and Romanian nationals

Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union on the 1 January 2007. Since then, Bulgarian and Romanian workers have been free to come to the UK, subject to worker authorisation. This has meant that nationals of Bulgaria and Romania have only been able to work if they have held a valid accession worker authorization document or have been  exempt from authorization.

Those who were not exempt have had to apply for permission to work through either the work permit arrangements, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme or the Sector Based Scheme.  Some workers have also been exempt on the basis of being a Highly Skilled Person. Those exempt on the basis of being highly skilled were required to hold a “blue” registration card to confirm that they have unrestricted access to the UK Labour Market.

The restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals working in the UK will end on 31 December 2013, so for workers employed on or after 1 January 2014 these restrictions will no longer apply. Romanians and Bulgarians after this date will have unrestricted access to the UK Labour Market and will not need worker authorisation to undertake any type of employment.

Croatian nationals

Similar accession worker restrictions on Croatian nationals came into force on 1 July 2013. Employers have been required to carry out document checks to ensure that any Croatian national employees are compliant with the restrictions on their access to the UK labour market.

Croatian nationals are permitted to move and reside freely in any EU Member State. The UK has, however, applied transitional restrictions on their access to the labour market under the Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013.

Croatians therefore currently need work authorisation to work in the UK. This means that they will need to hold a valid accession worker authorisation document (unless exempt). Employers therefore will need to carry out document checks to confirm whether a Croatian worker is either exempt from work authorisation or hold a valid worker authorisation document. Employers will need to check and keep dated copies of original work documents prior to the employee commencing work.

Employers will need to be aware that if they do not carry out checks on Croatian nationals and employ them illegally, they may be required to pay a civil penalty, under regulation 11(2) of the 2013 Accession Regulations. If employers are found employing a Croatian national illegally the maximum penalty which may be imposed for each Croatian national employed in breach of the Regulations is £5,000.

In conclusion, employers must take note that –

–          Bulgarians and Romanians now have unlimited access to the UK Labour Market, although the usual right to work checks will still apply; and

–          Croatian nationals will still need to demonstrate evidence that they have permission to work before starting any employment.

For further information in this respect please contact us

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