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5 mins read


Elaine Inns

The UK officially became a third country on 1st January 2021 after years of negotiations.

This means we’re separate from the European Union (EU) and its economic structures1, with new rules for how we’ll live, work and trade together.

Little will change overnight: for the moment, all existing EU-based employment legislation will continue to apply in domestic law, but there are some key HR and data protection considerations that will directly affect schools. 
So, while we’re waiting for a little more clarity, here’s what you need to know.

How to continue to recruit safely after Brexit

From 1st January 2021, professional regulators in the European Economic Area (the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) will no longer share information about sanctions imposed on their teachers with our Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA). This means that, since the beginning of the year, the TRA has no longer maintained a list of sanctioned EEA teachers.

So if your school wants to hire new staff members from these countries, the onus falls on you to carry out safer recruitment checks on all applicants. New teachers must also provide proof of their past conduct as a teacher, in the form of a letter of professional standing from the professional regulating authority in the country in which they worked . This can be used alongside any other information that you obtain through pre-appointment checks, to help you to assess their suitability for the job.

Changes to the qualified teacher regulations

The Government has published changes to the regulations governing who is qualified to teach in England now that the Brexit transition period is over. The requirements are different depending on what country your teachers trained in, so take a look at Government Guidance - Qualified Teacher Status for more information.

Checking that EU nationals have the right to work in the UK

Before hiring a new member of staff, you must check that they’re allowed to work in the UK. In fact, you could be penalised if you employ an illegal worker and haven’t carried out the correct right-to-work checks.

Some of these checks have changed for EU nationals since Brexit, but those who were already living in the UK on 31st December 2020 aren’t affected, as they and their families can apply for settled status.

However, the practical process for undertaking a right-to-work check remains the same. Use the Home Office’s handy online service to check whether a teacher who you want to employ has settled or pre-settled status, which means that they also have the right to work in the UK.

During the pandemic, checks can be undertaken virtually but, once Covid-19 measures have ended, you’ll have to carry out a follow-up check with the original documentation within eight weeks, regardless of the candidate’s nationality.

According to the revised laws, employers can still accept EU, EEA and Swiss passports and national identity cards as evidence of a person’s right to work in the UK until 30th June 2021 . Applicants don’t have to share their status with you during this grace period, and current Government advice is that you don’t need to retrospectively check that European employees recruited before 1st January 2021 have settled or pre-settled status, as long as you’ve already carried out thorough right-to-work checks.

It’s important to keep in mind the potential risks that some of these changes bring. An EEA national who enters the UK after 1st January 2021 may not have the automatic right to work in the UK but is still able to give you their EEA national passport or identity card as proof of right to work. You can’t request proof of their immigration status to confirm this, so you may need to recheck this later.

So, until 1st July 2021, make sure that your employment processes are robust, and review them constantly to guarantee that you’re doing all right-to-work checks correctly. After that, applicants will no longer be able to rely on their EU, EEA or Swiss passport or identity card to prove their right to work in the UK. Instead, they’ll have to provide an appropriate visa or a share code to prove their status under the EU Settlement Scheme .

The Government is due to issue further guidance on right-to-work checks after 30th June 2021 but, until then, you can find more information at Checking a job applicant's right to work.

Protecting your data

The UK will continue to be bound by the Data Protection Act, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations. However, we’ve yet to be granted an ‘adequacy decision’ by the EU, which allows personal data to flow between the UK and the EU without additional safeguards.

For the next six months, a temporary arrangement detailed in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement allows for this data exchange to continue, on the condition that the UK makes no major changes to its data protection laws .

So what does this mean for data protection processes at your school? Contact your suppliers and check whether data is being shared with any EU / EEA based companies. If it is, make sure that they provide you with additional safeguards such as standard contractual clauses. To err on the side of caution, you could also start reviewing all your data protection policies, privacy impact assessments and privacy notices, and amend any current references to GDPR to include a ‘UK’ prefix.

Once the UK has been granted an adequacy decision, the Government will provide further guidance. In the meantime, stay compliant and polish up on the UK’s latest data protection for education providers.

How we can help you

The effects of Brexit will be felt for some time to come. We’ve been providing HR advice to schools for more than 25 years, and our accredited Safer Recruitment training courses are designed to help you with your pre-appointment checks. To find out more, get in touch.

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