On 31 March 2023, the Home Office updated their Workers and Temporary Workers Guidance in relation to sponsor duties and compliance.
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the following key changes which came into force from 12 April 2023:
- Reporting duties for remote / hybrid working.
- Requirement for sponsors to report worker absences of more than 4 weeks on a reduced salary.
- Requirement to report worker absences for more than 4 weeks under all circumstances.
- Reporting duties for sponsors of “offshore workers.”
- Revocation of UK Expansion Worker and Scale-Up sponsor licences.
- Power to revoke a Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) licence.
- Automated changes which can be made via the SMS.
Reporting duties for remote / hybrid working
Due to changes in working practices in recent years, e.g., remote or hybrid working models; sponsor guidance confirms that sponsor licence holders are required to report any changes to a worker’s employment location.
These include where:
- the worker is, or will be, working at a different site, branch or office of your organisation, or a different client’s site, not previously declared to the Home Office;
- the worker is, or will be, working remotely from home on a permanent or full-time basis (with little or no requirement to physically attend a workplace); and
- the worker has moved, or will be moving, to a hybrid working pattern
“A hybrid working pattern is where the worker will work remotely on a regular and planned basis from their home or another address, such as a work hub space, that is not a client site or an address listed on your licence.”
All changes must be reported via the Sponsor Management Systems (SMS) within 10 working days of the change taking place; however, occasional changes to work locations, e.g., attending at a different site or a difference office for the occasional shift/s, do not need to be reported.
Rather confusingly, since the updated guidance was published, the Home Office has indicated that sponsors do not need to confirm on the SMS whether or not workers are working in a hybrid capacity as this is the new norm. Rather, the Home Office has confirmed that, as long as records are maintained on site, this would be sufficient for the purposes of a future compliance visit. Of course, sponsor guidance still hasn’t been updated to reflect this change, so we’d still encourage updates to the SMS to ensure compliance with current sponsor guidance.
Requirement for sponsors to report worker absences of more than 4 weeks on a reduced salary
In addition to the previous guidance where sponsors were only required to report worker absences of more than 4 weeks without pay, the new guidance now requires sponsors to report a worker’s absence of more than 4 weeks on reduced pay.
Requirement to report worker absences for more than 4 weeks under all circumstances
In accordance with the updated guidance, where a worker has been absent for more than 4 weeks in total in any calendar year, sponsors will now be required to report the reason of the absence, even if the absence was caused due to compelling or exceptional circumstances, e.g., absence due to sick leave or parental leave. Prior to the change, there was no duty for sponsors to report absences which fell within compelling or exceptional circumstances.
However, in circumstances where sponsors feel that they shouldn’t terminate a worker’s employment due to compelling or exceptional circumstances, the Home Office can still cancel a worker’s permission if they are not satisfied with the reason/s provided.
Reporting duties for sponsors of offshore workers
From 12 April 2023, sponsors of ‘offshore workers’ will be required to notify the Home Office in relation to the following:
- The date that the worker first arrives in UK waters for the job for which they are being sponsored; and
- the date that the worker leaves UK waters at the end of the job for which they are being sponsored.
Sponsors of offshore workers will be required to notify the Home Office:
- no earlier than the date the worker arrives in or leaves (whichever is relevant) UK waters; and
- no later than 10 working days after the date the worker arrives in or leaves (whichever is relevant).
However, as it is not currently possible for sponsors of offshore workers to report this information through the SMS, sponsors will be required to notify the Home Office of the required information by emailing the Offshore worker notification inbox (email@example.com).
Sponsor’s will be required to provide the following Information:
- the sponsor licence reference number
- the CoS reference number of the offshore worker
- the name, date of birth and nationality of the offshore worker
- the name of the ship or vessel on which the offshore worker will be based
- the date they arrived in, or left, UK waters
There will be no requirement to notify the Home Office if the worker temporarily leaves UK waters (for example, to take a holiday or as part of their employment) during a period of valid permission; provided that the sponsor correctly notifies the Home Office of the worker’s initial arrival and eventual departure dates.
In relation to offshore workers who do not require sponsorship, the offshore worker will be responsible for notifying the Home Office of their dates of arrival and departure from the UK; and the worker must make this notification each time they arrive in and leave UK waters.
Sponsors of offshore workers are advised to keep records of all entries to the UK in line with their sponsorship record-keeping duties. Failure to comply with these duties could result in the sponsor licence being revoked.
UK Expansion Worker and Scale-Up licences cannot be downgraded to a B-rating
The Home Office are adapting a firm approach in relation to UK Expansion Worker and Scale-Up Worker sponsors who fail to comply with their sponsor duties. If a sponsor fails to meet sponsor duties, the Home Office will no longer downgrade the sponsor to a B-rating or provide an action plan; instead, the Home Office will consider revoking the sponsor licence.
Furthermore, sponsor licences can no longer be held for more than four years in either UK Expansion Worker and Scale-up routes.
Power to revoke a Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) licence
With reference to the updated guidance, the Home Office can revoke the licence of a Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) sponsor if the government department which endorsed the sponsor licence withdraws its endorsement.
Automated changes which can be made via the SMS
From 12 April 2023, SMS requests to replace an Authorising Officer or a Key Contact, and to add new Level 1 users will be fulfilled immediately if the following criteria is met.
- The postcode of the address stated for the new Authorising Officer, Key Contact or Level 1 User match either the post code of the sponsor’s main organisation address or that of its head office address or, for Key Contacts and Level 1 Users, the postcode of a legal representative organisation that is nominated on the licence;
- the licence must be fully active; and
- the sponsor must be an A rated sponsor.
Latitude Law has already experienced requests not being automatic; the Home Office has been unable to confirm the circumstances when requests will not be automatic (even if the above criteria is met), although we believe this may be due to the licence being new.
If you would like to speak to one of our experts regarding duties and compliance for sponsored workers, call us now on 0161 234 6800 or complete our online enquiry form.