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The HGV driver shortage – is the frontier worker permit the answer?

Mandy and Ingrid provide a breakdown of what the options are going to be for EU drivers after the 30 June 2021.

Driver shortages are intensifying with Brexit ending recruitment from the EU, a backlog of driving tests caused by COVID-19 and nearly a third of the 300,000 UK drivers aged over 55 and approaching retirement.

Any EU driver who was resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 and wishes to remain living in the UK should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before the deadline of 30 June 2021.

But what are the options for EU drivers after 30 June 2021?

The UK Government does not consider HGV drivers as sufficiently skilled to be eligible for the skilled worker visa so haulage businesses cannot recruit overseas drivers through sponsorship under the Points Based Immigration System.

Haulage companies should consider whether the EU drivers they require would be eligible to apply for a frontier worker permit.

The frontier worker permit was launched by the UK Government in December 2020 and is suitable for EU nationals who are primarily resident overseas but come to the UK to perform productive work for a UK company.

Drivers must have commenced their cross border working pattern before 31 December 2020 to be eligible.

The criteria are wide and capture a range of working patterns and arrangements. For example, a driver who has only worked in the UK once in the last 12 months could potentially meet the criteria; as could a driver who has only returned to their country of residence once in the six months prior to their application.

There are no minimum skill or salary thresholds that must be met and no minimum hours that a driver must have worked in the UK as long as the work they perform is ‘genuine and effective’. Furthermore, both employed and self-employed drivers can be eligible to apply.

The application is free which means that the large fees associated with sponsorship are avoided.

In certain circumstances, a driver may be eligible to apply with ‘retained’ frontier worker status if they have previously worked in the UK but were temporarily unable to do so in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A frontier worker permit is usually granted for five years initially and can be extended indefinitely as long as the driver continues to meet the criteria.

Whilst there is no deadline to apply, the permits are mandatory for frontier workers from 1 July 2021.

Learn more about our expert advice offering for the transport and logistics sector from a team of highly experienced transport solicitors led by Lili Oliver, Partner. 

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