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Brexit – What are the new rules for UK contractors in Europe?


The European Union and the UK reached an agreement on a new partnership on 24 December 2020, with new rules that apply between the EU and the UK from January 1 2021.

There are particularly important new rules regarding employing UK contractors in EU countries, as well as other restrictions that could impact how staffing companies, recruiters and managed service providers operate across the EU.

New Rules for UK Contractors

Prior to the UK leaving the European Union, UK recruitment and consultancy companies would regularly deploy contractors or consultants to local clients in European countries.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) now allows EU countries to prohibit the use of temporary stay provisions, where the stay involves a contractor or consultant sent by a UK consultancy or staffing company. Many countries may follow what Switzerland already effectively does, where Swiss law requires anyone who places a worker with a Swiss employer to have a local establishment and licence. In order for UK recruitment and consultancy companies to carry on supplying contract workers to EU countries, they will need to establish themselves locally and employ/sponsor the relevant workers – which will take time and investment.

Workers now sent to the EU are required to either have been employed for 12 months, or be engaged on a self-employed basis before being posted. Generally the worker will only have permission to be in the country under contractual services or independent professional rules for as long as the client project last. There is normally a 12 month time limit and the worker would usually need relevant specialist experience, minimum experience is normally 6 years.

Are business trips permitted?

Short term, visa-free business trips are allowed, however trips cannot exceed 90 days in any 180 day period.

What is the situation for EU workers already working in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 and visa versa?

Any UK worker living in the EU or any EU worker living in the UK before 31 December 2020 will retain the right to stay in the country as a resident. However, you will most likely have to apply for a new residence permit, and the process will be different in each country. In the UK it is done through the EU Settlement Scheme app.

How TCP can help

TCP is a European Professional Employer Organisation and compliance specialist with over 25 years’ experience. Our expertise lies in the employment of skilled temporary/contract workers on behalf of clients. TCP operate in 8 countries across Europe, with partners worldwide. Take a look at the countries we operate in here. We have registered entities in all the countries we operate and can support work visa applications as well as act as the employer of record and manage the payroll according to local legislation, allowing TCP to manage the risks involved and indemnify our clients.

Would you like to know more? Call our UK office on: 0044 (0)208 580 0800 or fill in our contact us form here and a member of our sales team will get back to you as soon as possible.

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