Back in February, just after the UK had departed the EU, and before Covid-19 had such a devastating impact on the UK travel industry, Abta held an event looking at employment in travel after Brexit.
A particular focus of the event was the EU Posted Workers Directive (PWD), and the importance for outbound travel companies of maintaining flexible, temporary, arrangements to move staff into the EU.
At the time, the Political Declaration signed by Boris Johnson offered some comfort, with provisions envisaging mobility arrangements that would go beyond typical trade deals.
However, the government’s stance has since shifted, and just two months from the end of the transition period, employment is one area where things now look set to change markedly.
While trade talks remain delicately poised, the imminent disappearance of the PWD and lack of a direct replacement, regardless of whether there is a Free Trade Agreement or not, will present a significant challenge.
As many will know, the PWD has been used by many travel companies, notably tour operators, for many years to move vital support staff around the EU to assist UK holidaymakers in-resort.
These staff fill a variety of roles and the industry estimates that around 15,000 workers were hired annually under the regime in recent years, and as many as 20,000 each year before the EU referendum in 2016.
The end of the PWD is already influencing the industry’s employment practices. Abta’s Brexit guidance has suggested members consider local hires for this coming season if workers are in destination before the end of the year.
Doing so should enable staff to benefit from protections in the Withdrawal Agreement, whereas the ending of the PWD means it is unclear whether workers would have the right to remain in EU destinations beyond 31 December on A1s (the legal mechanism behind the directive).