After 31 December 2020, the ability for UK business visitors to travel to the EU on work-related matters will change. Deal or no-deal, the UK will become a ‘third-country’ and UK employers will have to navigate individual EU member state rules for their mobile workforce.
Each member state will have different national laws applicable to third-country workers, visiting or working, and it is important UK employers understand that no country’s rules are the same.
Schengen Area and Visa Scheme
There is however, a broad framework called the “Schengen area”. This consists of most EU member states who have dissolved border and passport controls between each other to create a large free travel area.
Countries who are not within the Schengen area, can instead be part of the Schengen Visa Waiver Scheme which includes, for example, Canada and the US. It is highly likely that the UK too will be added to the Schengen Visa Waiver Scheme.
The Schengen Visa Waiver Scheme is a discretionary permission to enter visa-free and allows travellers to stay for up to 90-days in any 180-day period for tourism or business purposes. However, individual countries have different limitations on business activities permitted under the Scheme. Entering under the Scheme does not allow the traveller to work but simply allows them to enter the country without a visa.
Even if an entry visa is not required, business visitors and posted workers who travel to the EU are still obliged to comply with the advance notification requirements of the country before they travel. Details of these notification requirements vary country by country and a list of country websites can be found here. Further, it is highly likely that upon arrival, border officials will ask for documentary evidence that will prove the reason for travel, the duration of stay and where the worker will be visiting or working. The type of documents that may be required again will vary country by country and according to their national law.
If the worker is providing a service (i.e. a posted worker) there are more onerous obligations to meet. Posted workers must notify the country in advance via an online national portal or regional local authority, depending on the country, obtain a work/residence permit (this will be common in most member states) and provide a remuneration* calculation of their payment for the time they work abroad, even if it’s for just one day.
Before the UK left the EU, we were bound by a social security regulation that effectively stated any worker sent on their employer’s behalf to another EU member state different to their usual place of work, for business-related matters, must pay social security locally unless they can prove they paid it in their home country. The UK’s method of proof is by using an A1 form, easily obtained from HRMC. Each worker needs one and each A1 form will need the exact dates of travel for each EU country.
However, now the UK has left the EU, we are no longer bound by the social security regulation and each EU member state can unilaterally decide whether they will continue to recognise UK A1 forms from 1 January 2021 onwards. If they are not recognised, UK workers will have to pay appropriate local social security contributions for the time they are working in each EU country. Some EU member states may continue to accept our A1 forms but, this will be a member state, by member state exercise.
*remuneration is an obligation for a posted worker to be paid either the same or above the local going rate in the country of destination. The local going rate is found in collective agreements for each sector and sub-sector. These can also be regional as well as national.
Find out more about Make UK’s EU Business Travel Service here
Read more on social security obligations here
Check which type of worker you send to the EU here