EU Withdrawal Agreement: DWP updates benefit rules for EEA frontier worker claimants

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European citizens can access UK benefits through the EU Settlement Scheme, with the Government going to great lengths to encourage families to apply ahead of the June deadline. Today, the DWP updated guidance on how EEA citizens can gain access to state support going forward.

The changes primarily concern European frontier workers, who are generally people who work in one country but live primarily in another.

The DWP provided the following details on the changes: “From July 1 2021 EEA citizens, except for Irish citizens, must have a frontier worker permit to come to the UK to work as a frontier worker.

“You do not need a frontier worker permit to claim, or continue to receive benefits, but it may help your claim be dealt with more quickly.”

The DWP then went on to provide guidance on how people can apply for a frontier worker permit.

Affected people were also advised to contact a Jobcentre Plus for information on benefits or HMRC for child benefit and tax credits specifically.

Workers from abroad may be eligible for a Frontier Worker permit if all of the following apply:

  • They’re from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
  • They live outside of the UK
  • They began working in the UK by 31 December 2020

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As it stands, EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and their families can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after June 30 2021.

Eligible claimants will be given either settled or pre-settled status and both of these provide access to UK employment, state benefits, pensions and NHS services.

The Home Office recently updated the rules on the EU Settlement Scheme, with temporary adjustments being tweaked in the reviewing process.

In 2020, temporary changes were made to reduce the need for physical checks and meetings but since April 17, employers have been forced to do the following if they carried out a temporary adjusted check on applicants:

  • Ask the worker to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
  • Arrange a video call with the worker – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents record the date they made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
  • If the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or has been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme or the points-based immigration system they can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call – the applicant must give permission to view their details

Following this, May Tania Bowers, the Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), warned these changes could create problems for British employers: “It’s disappointing that the Home Office has decided to return to the position of employers needing to see original documents to undertake verification checks from 17th May rather than retaining the Covid remote video checks that have worked well over the last year for a longer period.

“We hoped that the Home Office would prioritise the expansion of digital checks, currently only available for checking EU settlement, a process more suitable for the modern world of flexible work.

“There has been a huge amount of time and effort that has gone into adapting the Right to Work verification processes in a remote environment and to return to pre-pandemic systems that do not retain the flexibility that is needed in a hybrid working environment will not help organisations during this recovery period.

“The short deadline for the return to these in-person checks is also a concern for APSCo and its members as, to date, businesses are expecting the ‘work from home if you can’ advice to remain in place into June.

“In light of this, most organisations are planning a wider return to the office from June onwards in line with Government timeframes to further relax restrictions.

“To introduce these face-to-face/original document verification checks when people are still working remotely and offices are not open is simply unworkable and will only add further unnecessary burdens on already struggling businesses.

“We will be addressing these concerns with the Home Office directly.”

In February, it was detailed the milestone of five million applicants was reached four months ahead of the scheme’s deadline.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, welcomed this news at the time: “It is fantastic news that over five million people have applied to the hugely successful EU Settlement Scheme.

“It’s the biggest scheme of its kind in UK history and will mean European citizens and their families can continue to call the UK home.”

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