Date Legislation considered: 16 June 2022
Royal Assent Date: 28 March 2022
Potential Right(s) Affected:Recognition of Professional Qualifications/Discrimination/Equal Treatment
What does the legislation do?
The Explanatory Notes that were published alongside the Act, state that “The Professional Qualifications Act 2022 (“the Act”) revokes the current EU-based system for recognising professional qualifications gained overseas and establishes a new approach based on regulator autonomy and delivering international agreements. It also helps aspiring professionals understand how to access professions.”.
Prior to the end of the transition period following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 31st December 2020, the recognition in one EU Member State of professional qualifications obtained by citizens of another EU Member State was governed by Directive 2005/36/EC on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications (the “MRPQ Directive”). These recognition arrangements were extended to EEA EFTA citizens by virtue of the Directive being annexed to the EEA Agreement.*
The MRPQ directive contained two mechanisms by which professional qualifications held by an EU or EEA EFTA citizen could be recognised in another EU or EEA EFTA State:
- an automatic recognition system for doctors, nurses, dental practitioners, veterinary surgeons, midwives, pharmacists, and architects holding formal qualifications listed in Annex V to the Directive; and
- a general recognition system for professionals in other sectors and professionals in sectors covered by the automatic recognition system whose qualifications were not listed in Annex V to the Directive.
The MRPQ Directive was implemented in the UK through the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015 (as amended).
Following EU exit it was necessary to amend the UK’s domestic legislation and from 1 January 2021, an interim system of recognition of professional qualifications from the EU, EEA EFTA States and Switzerland was put in place.
The Act sets out a new approach to the recognition of professional qualifications, revokes the interim system, and contains powers to revoke other EU-derived legislation on the recognition of professional qualifications.
It is important to note that the Act establishes the framework for the new approach to the recognition of professional qualifications, and so does not prescribe how regulators of professions will recognise overseas professional qualifications. Once the 2015 regulations are revoked, there will be more autonomy for UK regulators to decide on the right approach to recognition of overseas professional qualifications, tailored to suit the needs of their profession.
The revocation of the 2015 regulations will be commenced through regulations made using powers in the Act. The government has indicated that these regulations will ensure the UK meets its obligations under the EU Withdrawal Agreement, EEA-EFTA Separation Agreement and UK-Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement.
The UK is under an obligation to keep recognising qualifications under the EU system where these have already been recognised or an application had been made prior to 1st January 2021 for such recognition**. The UK’s new regulatory framework will need to meet this obligation.
The IMA raises no issues of concern at this stage; however it will be important to consider any regulations made under the Act. Any citizen experiencing difficulties in exercising their rights are encouraged to report a complaint through the IMA Portal.
Further information about the IMA and guidance on how to report complaints can also be found on the Website.
*Agreement on the European Economic Area, 1992
**Article 27 Withdrawal Agreement/Article 26 EEA EFTA Separation Agreement