Once you start work in the UK as a paid employee you acquire 'worker' status except where your work is not considered to be genuine or is defined as 'marginal'. If you work full-time (other than on a temporary contract) you could establish your worker status in as little as two weeks. If you work part-time, it may take longer and will depend on the facts in your case (e.g. how many hours you work, the rate of pay, regular or irregular pattern, etc.). As a worker you have the right to continue to live in the UK and to access social security benefits and housing.
The law treats unemployed EEA workers, retired workers and EEA jobseekers differently:
- You are an EEA jobseeker if:
- you entered the UK looking for work, registered at the Jobcentre Plus as unemployed, but have not yet found employment, or
- you have been registered unemployed at the Jobcentre Plus for six months after previously having worked in the UK for less than a year in total.
- If you have pre-settled status and you are an EEA jobseeker (rather than an unemployed
retained worker/self-employed person):
- your EEA jobseeker status lasts for a maximum of three months;
- your jobseeker status entitles you to join the council waiting list and to get housing as homeless in Scotland (but not England and Wales); but,
- you are not entitled to UC/HB (anywhere in Great Britain);
- you have the right to live and work in the UK both during and after your jobseeker status has expired by virtue of your pre-settled status (but your pre-settled status alone does not entitle you to any housing services in any part of the UK – you must have some qualifying right to reside to go with it).
- You are an unemployed worker (‘retained worker’) if you are registered unemployed at Jobcentre Plus after previously having worked in the UK for at least one year (which need not have been continuous). You retain your worker status without time limit whilst you are registered unemployed and are actively looking for work.
- You are an unemployed worker (‘retained worker’) if you are registered unemployed at Jobcentre Plus after previously having worked in the UK for less than one year. You retain your worker status for up to six months whilst you are registered unemployed and are actively looking for work.
- You are a retired worker if you have worked in the UK as a worker or self-employed person and have now retired from the labour market due to old age, sickness or incapacity.
To qualify as a worker the work that you do must be:
- 'Genuine and effective': there must be a real job. Even if there is no contract, there must be an employer and wages or the equivalent in goods or services must be paid. Family or friendly arrangements with no contract or regular hours, or those that do not pay a minimum wage may be regarded as not genuine or effective.
- Not 'marginal or ancillary'. Where hours and earnings are very low, the work may be 'marginal'.
Although you should not be denied worker status just because your earnings are so low that they need to be supplemented by benefits (e.g. tax credits and/or housing benefit), if you are claiming benefits as a worker or former worker and your earnings are too low to pay national insurance (£242 per week from July 2022), the benefits authority may decide that your work is or was marginal. A number of factors should be considered before deciding that the work that you do is marginal or not effective or genuine. These include:
- the period of employment
- the number of hours worked
- the level of earnings
- whether the work is regular or erratic.
These factors must be considered as a whole and the absence or presence of one cannot be considered as being conclusive.