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EEA Nationals - 'Worker' definition

The notes on this page are for EEA nationals and their family members who were resident in the UK on 31 December 2020.

An EEA national has a right to reside as a worker if he or she works as an employee and is performing effective and genuine work in exchange for payment. A self-employed person or the owner/director of a small company are not workers – they are covered by the rules on self-employment.

Effective and genuine work

Benefit officials operate a two-tier system to make their decisions about worker status.

Tier 1 – if an EEA national earns at least enough to pay Class 1 NI contributions (£184 a week in 2021/22), and has been earning that amount for at least three months, benefits decision makers will automatically accept that the person has ‘worker’ status.

Tier 2 – if an EEA national cannot demonstrate average earnings equal to or above the Class 1 NI threshold over a period of 3 months, the decision maker will need to make an individual decision regarding whether the EEA national’s activity was ‘genuine and effective’. It is not possible to provide a formula for this – each case is assessed on its own merit. Please see the help page on how genuine and effective work is assessed.

If a worker loses their job, takes a maternity break or becomes ill after being in effective and genuine work, they will retain the status of worker.  See more information in our retained status help page.

Claiming benefits as a worker

Worker status satisfies the right to reside test for all benefits, and workers are not required to pass the factual habitual residence test. The same applies to the family members of workers when they are the benefit claimant or joint claimant.

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