Brexit and employment: affected or not affected? That is the question!

One of the consequences of Brexit is that the free movement of workers between the EU and the UK came to an end on 1 January 2021. Assess the impact on cross-border employment now, and avoid delays or unpleasant surprises for your company and employee(s). 

Visa, work permit or single permit

EU citizens now need a work visa to work in the UK. British citizens need a single permit or work permit to work in Belgium or another EU Member State. Belgian citizens in the UK can apply until 31 March 2021 to maintain the right to reside and work; British citizens in Belgium have until 31 December 2021. Exceptions apply to contractual service suppliers, intra-corporate transferees and short-term business visitors.

Employment and social security law 

For ongoing (unchanged) employment, nothing has changed as of 1 January 2021: the existing EU rules on employment and social security law continue to apply.

However, Brexit may have an impact on any new cross-border employment or on existing cross-border employment that changes on or after 1 January 2021.

Which employment law applies?

EU rules continue to apply to an employed position in Belgium or another EU Member State: the parties can choose the applicable employment law, but the employee is always protected by the mandatory provisions of the country of the habitual place of work.

For employment in the UK, UK employment law will apply. 

In the case of simultaneous employment, two different legal systems can therefore apply.

In the case of secondment to Belgium, a UK employee will be subject to the Belgian Secondment Act. When an employee is posted from an EU Member State to the UK, UK law will determine the rules to be applied.

Which social security law applies?

The rules in the trade agreement are quite similar to the existing EU rules, with a few exceptions.

The general rule remains that social security contributions are due in the country in which the employee is working, regardless of his/her country of residence or the country of establishment of the employer.

The rules in the case of simultaneous employment also resemble the current EU rules. Additional clarification is provided regarding undertakings with a link to the UK or for employees who reside in the UK: UK social security law may apply even if the employee carries out his/her activities in one or more EU Member States and not in the UK. Extra attention is needed in such cases!

With regard to secondments, the law of the Home State continues to apply. We understand that the EU Member States, including Belgium, will not make use of the possibility in the trade agreement to deviate from this general rule.

Avoid surprises: 

  • Always check whether your employee needs a visa or work permit/single permit or whether he/she can invoke an exception.
  • Always check the applicable employment and social security law for an employed position starting on or changing on or after 1 January 2021.