A leading employment lawyer today issued an urgent warning to bosses as the deadline nears for EU citizens to apply for permission to continue to live and work in the UK.

Sarah Williams, head of employment at Taylors Solicitors, said the hotel and leisure industry along with the healthcare, agricultural, logistics and manufacturing sectors are likely to be most affected by the new rules because they rely so heavily on overseas workers.

Following Brexit and the end of free movement, citizens of every EU country as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland already in the UK need to apply to the Home Office by Wednesday, June 30 for pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Sarah, who is advising a range of businesses on the issue, said the changes combined with the new points-based immigration system were causing difficulties for many employers.

She said many bosses appear to have ignored the issue, possibly because they have been preoccupied with steering their companies through the pandemic.

“The deadline has crept up on everyone,” said Sarah.

“With Covid-19 dominating the headlines, many employers will have been so focused on simply saving their businesses and making health and safety changes that they will have forgotten about the changes and the deadline, and it’s impossible to stop the clock.

“Ultimately, failure to apply for pre-settled or settled status will prevent people from continuing to live and work in the UK, and employers could face fines.

“From July 1, it will be more difficult to employ EU nationals. An identity card or passport will not allow them to live and work in the UK. Employers who rely on EU workers should be urgently reminding them to apply – it’s quick and easy to do via the government website.

“Those seeking to come here from July 1 will be treated the same as workers from non-EU countries – they will only be able to do so if they have applied for the appropriate visa.”

Sarah added: “These changes, combined with the points-based immigration system, are a headache for many employers and they need to take urgent action to avoid falling foul of the new rules.”

The points-based system was introduced in January and mean employers need to be a licensed sponsor to hire eligible employees from overseas.

Some reports have suggested that over 100,000 EU citizens still need to apply for pre-settled or settled status.