Do I need to report sponsored staff as absent via SMS?

No. While UKVI has not issued much guidance about the effect of the current crisis on sponsorship, they have said that, “You do not need to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus.” They confirm that this includes absences related to illness, the need to self isolate or inability to travel due to restrictions.

The Home Office have confirmed that they will not take enforcement action against sponsors who continue to sponsor employees despite absences due to coronavirus. It would be advisable to ensure that you keep a record of any absences that you authorise, along with any appropriate evidence that the absence was due to the current outbreak.