Best foot forward for your business: A look at how Brexit will affect employment, contracts, GDPR, and how you can get ready

Written by: Helen Howes, Willans LLP | Posted 19 November 2020 6:45

Best foot forward for your business: A look at how Brexit will affect employment, contracts, GDPR, and how you can get ready

It’s a reasonable assumption that were it not for the coronavirus crisis, Brexit would be getting a lot more airtime right now.

But while all may seem quiet on that front, there’s no hiding from the fact that the end of the transition period is fast approaching.   

Helen Howes, a corporate & employment law solicitor at Willans LLP, explains how Brexit is set to shake-up GDPR, commercial contracts and employing EU citizens, and gives some helpful guidance on what your business should be doing right now to prepare.  

Even though we are approaching the end of the year, there is still uncertainty as to what will happen when the transition period ends. Here are some of the common questions we are being asked by national and overseas clients at the moment.

(To watch an update video see link below)

How will Brexit affect GDPR?   

The UK will still need to comply with GDPR.  Unless the transition period is extended (which appears extremely unlikely at the time of writing this article), from January 1,2021, the UK will essentially see a ‘UK GDPR’ come into force. 

This UK version will incorporate the GDPR into UK legislation and deal with the fact that many of the GDPR definitions make sense in the context where the UK is a part of the EU, they don’t make sense where the UK is a ‘third country’, and therefore a ‘UK version’ is required.   

It doesn’t seem like this change will affect the practical aspects of data protection compliance for UK companies. 

The only exception to this is if you need to appoint an EU representative; as the UK will be a ‘third country’, many UK companies will need to have an ‘EU representative’ from January to act as their ‘direct contact’ for individuals and the data protection supervisory authorities in the EEA.    

Your legal advisors will be able to help you with this, or alternatively, data services organisations (such as our sister company, Willans Data Protection Services) can assist.  

How will Brexit affect our commercial contracts?   

You are likely to have contracts in place where the contractual term will run beyond the end of the year. Depending on where the parties are based, those may easily tumble into being a cross UK-EU border contract. We recommend that you audit those contracts in place, particularly looking at the definitions of key terms.   

You may also need to consider if you need your contracts to include ‘GDPR style’ data protection clauses, and be careful of automatic renewal clauses - now may be an opportune time to review terms. It would also be sensible to review any contractual mechanisms in place for pricing, particularly because new arrangements for tariffs and other costs of trading are still uncertain. There are many more issues to consider, and a commercial solicitor or lawyer can help you with all of this.  

What do I need to bear in mind when employing EU citizens?  

From January a new points-based system and a new ‘skilled worker’ immigration category will be introduced in the UK.  Under this new system, businesses wanting to employ an EU citizen who has arrived in the UK from 11pm on December 31, 2020, will have to sponsor them under a points-based system. 

To do this, they will have to be registered with the Home Office and make sure the job they wish to employ them in meets specific criteria. 

It is always sensible to obtain advice from a business immigration specialist, who can help you establish if the job meets the relevant criteria and help you apply to be registered as a sponsor with UK Visas and Immigration.  

The government has made it clear that businesses do not need to change how right to work checks are carried out until the middle of 2021. 

So, for the time being, businesses are able to carry on with their usual checks. The government has also announced that in the future, it intends for there to be more online checks available for employers to use to check an individual’s right to work.

To watch an update video click here: Webinar: Brexit - how your business can prepare