First Moves on Social Security Post-Brexit

In a recent announcement the Deutsche Verbindungsstelle Krankenversicherung im Ausland (“DVKA”) have stated that all A1 certificates issued for workers going to the UK will expire before 29 March 2019.  This is the second anniversary of the date on which the UK “triggered” Article 50 to withdraw from the European Union.

This decision from the German authorities appears to assume that the UK will make a withdrawal from the single market.  Broadly speaking “hard Brexit” means that rather than the Swiss or Norwegian model where the UK is not in the EU but maintains membership of the common market, the UK pulls out entirely. 

Since leaving the single market will be necessary if the UK wants to withdraw from the EU’s principle of free movement of labour – a key motivation for the pro-Brexit vote in some quarters – then it seems increasingly likely that this will happen.

What it means in practice for posted workers and their employers is complicated.

Without the single market it is likely social security co-ordination will also end as we know it.  In this particular case, workers posted from Germany to the UK and vice versa could rely on the existing UK-Germany Reciprocal Agreement (though its terms are subtly different to the EU treaty). 

However it is equally possible that this agreement will be re-drafted, or potentially even put aside.

 If the DVKA’s approach is followed by other EU states, this could create further problems – for example, the UK has no Reciprocal Agreements with many current EU states such as Poland.  With no RA to fall back on, either a new one must be drafted – and quickly – or there will be a risk of either a double contribution liability or possibly no contribution liability, for Polish residents on UK flag vessels, of which there are many.

There is also a long-term question as to how transfers of benefits will be affected for UK and EU nationals who have contributed in a state other than their home.

If you employ internationally mobile workers, or are a self-employed worker who goes overseas to work, we strongly advise that you seek support early to make sure that you have the right cover in place.