Several changes have come into effect for Skilled Worker sponsors over the law few months. Two of these changes in particular are a reflection of the lasting impact of the pandemic.
The guidance for sponsors part 3: sponsor duties and compliance was updated on 31 March 2023 to include welcome clarification on hybrid working. It has always been the case that a sponsor is required to report when a sponsored migrant’s work location changes, within 10 working days of the change taking effect. A sponsor is now also required to report when a worker is, or will be, working remotely from home on a permanent or full-time basis or where the worker has moved, or will be moving, to a hybrid working pattern.
The guidance defines a ‘hybrid working pattern’ as a situation where the worker will work remotely on a regular and planned basis from their home or another address.
During the pandemic, the Home Office made it clear that sponsored migrants could work from home. It became less clear whether this would be permitted to continue beyond lockdowns and in line with the government’s ‘living with covid’ approach. One could have anticipated that the Home Office would argue that if a Skilled Worker migrant was working from home on a full-time basis, they do not need to be in the UK to undertake the role and therefore do not fulfil the requirements for obtaining a Skilled Worker visa. The recent changes to the guidance seem to suggest that they are not taking this approach.
Delayed start dates
Towards the end of last year, the Home Office removed the requirement to report where a sponsored migrant’s start date is delayed by no more than 28 days. This is likely a reflection of the overwhelming number of late start date reports that have been submitted since March 2020 due to the delays in visa processing times and international travel restrictions which prevented sponsored migrants from starting work in the UK as planned.
Where a sponsored migrant’s start date will be more than 28 days beyond the start date of their CoS, or their grant of immigration permission, a sponsor must report this and explain the reasons for the delayed start. However, the sponsor does not need to wait for the Home Office to review and accept the report before the sponsored migrant begins work. We believe these reports are currently taking at least several months to be processed.
Whilst the reduction in reporting duties for delays of 28 days or less is of course welcome, the system in place for delays of more than 28 days could result in sticky situations for sponsors and their sponsored migrants. If the Home Office does not accept the reason for a delay of more than 28 days, the sponsored migrant’s leave could be cancelled. This could then present various commercial and logistical issues. For example, if a sponsored migrant, their partner and children all move to the UK only to find out their leave has been cancelled within a few months, this could have significant implications. Although it may be possible for a Skilled Worker sponsored migrant to apply for leave to remain with a newly issued CoS in this situation, there would be substantial financial and administrative costs for both the sponsor and migrant.
We will need to wait and see what happens in practice and whether the ’28 day’ rule will be sufficient and flexible enough for employers. If you require advice in relation to the above or any other business immigration matters, please contact Rachael Ockenden at firstname.lastname@example.org.