Global Employer Services News

International - New UK-EEA EFTA social security agreement enters into effect

The new social security convention between the UK and the countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) -- Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway -- entered into force on 1 January 2024, with each state having completed all procedural and notification requirements.


Ensuring correct social security coverage for migrant employees (assignees or multistate workers) has long been an important undertaking for the EU. Regulation (EC) No. 883/2004 and Regulation (EC) 987/2009 -- which replace the former Regulation 1408/71 -- coordinate the social security systems of the EU member states. They include rules that determine which social security scheme applies to a specific cross-border employment scenario. The regulations also ensure that individuals who move between different countries will have their right to access the health care system guaranteed and their entitlement to social benefits safeguarded.

When the UK exited from the EU -- Brexit -- on 31 January 2020, both the EU and the UK grandfathered the rights of all existing migrant employees and self-employed individuals in the EU Withdrawal Agreement and EEA EFTA Separation agreement. These individuals will continue to have life-long social security coordination under the provisions of those two agreements, which essentially refer to the rules included in the EU Regulations.

New cross-border situations between the EU and the UK that arise post-Brexit are governed by the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement that applies from 1 January 2021. This agreement includes provisions that are similar but not identical to the provisions included in the EU Regulations.

Since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and EEA EFTA, the rights of migrant workers moving between the UK and EEA EFTA countries -- Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway -- were no longer coordinated on a supranational level. The old bilateral agreements between the UK and Norway and the UK and Iceland were the only international agreements in place.

The new Convention on Social Security Coordination between Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and the UK provides a more robust framework. Applicable from 1 January 2024, this new convention ensures that UK and EEA EFTA migrant workers are covered by only one social security scheme at any given time. The convention determines which social security scheme applies to assignees or multistate workers based on a set of criteria inspired by the rules included in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The new convention also guarantees access to the health care system, as well as the coordination of social security benefits and allowances for UK-EEA EFTA migrant workers.

For more information on international social security matters in general or the implications thereof on your workforce, please feel free to contact the author or your regular BDO contact.

Peter Wuyts
BDO in Belgium