The hidden story: how Brexit is set to impact business travel long after the pandemic

4 mins read

A-Plan Corporate outline the new administrative and insurance requirements facing employees looking to travel to the EU

Lisa Birch, Associate Director at A-Plan Corporate
Lisa Birch, Associate Director at A-Plan Corporate

UK manufacturers, who have finally been given the green light for business travel after a long pandemic hiatus, are being warned there is another complication to consider: the delayed impact of Brexit.

Travel has taken such a big hit because of Covid-19 that new restrictions and requirements brought in since the United Kingdom exited the European Union have become the forgotten story.

It is only now that many businesses are discovering that their employees cannot travel as freely around Europe as they did before – and that different requirements are now in place, ranging from insurance to potential work permits or visas, which add to the administrative burden.

Travel health cover is now mandatory

One of the prerequisites for business travel to the EU, now that the UK is regarded a ‘third country’, is suitable travel insurance which includes cover for medical costs. It's a requirement for any third country national entering the Schengen area – and they may be asked to show proof of insurance at the border.

“This may come as a surprise to many manufacturers, and certainly to travelling employees,” says Lisa Birch, Associate Director at A-Plan Corporate, the official insurance partner of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation. “There are two different types of cover which are required under the new rules: travel insurance and health insurance.

“In the past, the latter was covered off by the old EHIC card which guaranteed UK passport holders reciprocal health care when travelling in any EU state.

“The UK has since signed up to the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), issued free to any NHS-registered patient. However, it is unlikely that all employees will have one – and it is vital to understand that the card covers only emergency healthcare provided free in the state being visited. There may still be significant charges to pay - and repatriation will not be covered.

“Some member states request proof of Insurer representation within their territory or specific benefits, with so many changes taking place, we advise companies to check if their current insurance policy still covers employees for travel, because it may not automatically in the post-Brexit world.”

Fergus McReynolds, Director of EU and International Affairs at Make UK, says insurance is not the only issue to consider.

“In the past, employees were granted unfettered freedom of movement across Europe, for the purposes of both pleasure and business. Not anymore,” he explains. “The UK has signed a Trade & Cooperation Agreement which provides for a limited ability to travel visa free - but does not guarantee anyone permission to work in any new country. So, it’s important that companies understand the rules.

“Some business trips do qualify for a visa exemption, but this depends on what type of work is being undertaken – and that might vary from country to country.

“It would be easy to presume that the length of time you intend to work in a country would define whether a visa or work permit is required. This is not the case.

“You may only be there for an hour, but if that hour is deemed as provision of a service - or deemed as work in the country you are visiting - additional documents may be needed.”

Travel is important in the manufacturing sector

Trade fairs are an important way of finding new customers and new suppliers, whilst after-sale service is key to the industry.

One of the value-adds in the UK manufacturing sector is that businesses don’t just manufacture or sell the product, they also provide installation, servicing and repairs within the contract.

Executive travel is also important for multi-nationals moving employees between offices and factories.

However, new regulations make business travel more complicated.

Did you know: Travel to the EU is limited to 90 days in a 180-day period - for all types of travel

Before sending employees abroad, businesses need to consider:

Are they eligible to travel?
Travel in the EU for UK citizens is now limited to 90 days within any 180-day period – for any purpose. So, for instance, if someone has completed a three-month project in the Schengen area, travelling under the visa waiver programme, they may find they cannot go on holiday inside the EU once it is completed. The reverse is also true – if they have had an extended vacation in the EU or spent time abroad, they may have used up their allocation.

Do they need a visa?
The Trade & Cooperation Agreement sets out a list of reasons for short-term business travel which may be granted visa free. This could include attending a meeting but also, crucially for the manufacturing industry, after-sales services such as installation or repair. It is down to the individual member state, however, to make the final decision and there will be anomalies.

Not every UK manufacturer is embracing the return of business travel just yet, so understanding the new regulations is key.

A-Plan Corporate’s Birch adds: “The reality is there are more administrative requirements for businesses when sending employees abroad, and more potential liabilities if they get it wrong. Liabilities which simply weren’t there before.

“It’s important that the topic gets wider coverage. The only time we have seen it become a story so far is around touring musicians who are faced with complications when moving from country to country between gigs.

“But the problems they face are the same ones that will hit those working in the manufacturing sector. The sooner manufacturers can get to grips with the extra administration required the sooner their employees can be travelling again.”

The key things for UK manufacturers to remember

  • Ensure all employees have sufficient insurance cover in place so they are protected in the country of arrival – whether they are working there or not.
  • Help them understand their responsibilities and what documentation is required at the border.
  • Make sure they are issued with a full travel pack which contains all the documents required.
  • Define whether or not they will be deemed to be working on the trip. That’s not up to the company to define, consider the definition of work in the country they are visiting. It will be different in every country

How A-Plan Corporate can help

A-Plan Corporate can provide advice on suitable insurance cover and ensure you have understood all the requirements when employees travel into the EU and beyond.

A-Plan Corporate. The broker taking care of the makers.

To contact us call 0330 175 7485 or email


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