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Compliance and Home Office Enforcement in the News

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A Wake-up Call for Sponsor Licence Holders

If you are a UK sponsor licence holder you may have recently read about how some UK stalwarts of industry have been fined for not paying the minimum wage to some staff. You may be questioning how this came about and how you can protect your business.

In this blog, our immigration solicitors look at the difficulties of keeping up to date with regulations and what you can do about it if you are a business with a sponsor licence.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence application and management advice call 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Compliance visits – the statistics

In June 2023, nearly 160 Home Office enforcement visits resulted in 105 illegal workers being found at businesses across the UK. The maximum fine for employing a worker who does not have the right to work in the UK is £20,000. That figure is per worker.  The total potential fines for 105 people is 2.1 million although the maximum civil penalty fine is normally only levied in cases where rules have been deliberately flouted rather than mistakes made.

In the first quarter of 2023 over 1,300 compliance visits were undertaken.

In June 2023 the government also announced the names of 200 companies found to have been in breach of the national minimum wage legislation. Shopping giants, such as Marks & Spencer, Argos, and WH Smith, were said to have been in breach. There were even some lawyers on the list. These reputable companies cited historical errors quickly righted when the problem was discovered or the use and reliance on third-party payroll companies but the fact that the household name businesses appeared on the list just goes to show how hard it can be to comply with all the regulations that UK businesses must adhere to.

Compliance visits – the future

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that Home Office enforcement action and compliance visits are not new but some businesses were lulled into a false sense of security when visits and Home Office audits reduced in number during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is fair to say that with the government’s focus on immigration numbers and enforcement that the number of compliance visits is likely to rise. With that warning, UK sponsor licence holders should double-check their procedures and policies and audit their files to ensure that checks are made to see if things were allowed to relax during the COVID-19 pandemic or because of the impact of lockdowns and working from home.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that some businesses report that they are too busy to audit HR files or to review the work of their key personnel or they say that their level one user has left their employment and that they are finding it hard to recruit a replacement with the necessary skill set or experience.

Work pressures are understandable but they will not prevent Home Office audits or findings from being made against a sponsor licence holder. If your business does not comply with its sponsor licence reporting and recording obligations your company risks losing its sponsor licence so it can no longer employ its sponsored employees. On top of that, your business risks embarrassing press coverage and reputational damage.

Sponsor licence compliance tips

Sponsor licence compliance is not easy. Parts of it are mundane and repetitive so it is tempting for HR staff to prioritise recruitment drives or handling a staff discrimination complaint or all the other urgent pressing work that ends up on their desk. This can be a false economy.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers recommend that staff training is undertaken so that every member of the HR team understands the importance of seemingly non-urgent administrative work and can say when they need extra help. That may be in the form of the deployment of an extra level two user or the use of a professional sponsor management service.

At OTS Solicitors we are getting lots of calls from small business owners and HR staff worried about their sponsor licence being at risk of suspension. Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can look at those issues on your company’s behalf and either do a pre-compliance visit and then report on the steps you need to take. Alternatively, for a fixed monthly retainer, our business immigration lawyers can provide a sponsor licence management service.

If you are interested in finding out more about our sponsor licence management service led by the head of the business immigration team, Hans Sok Appadu, then give us a call. We believe that our service not only offers great value for money with its fixed monthly retainer but it also provides peace of mind and allows your HR team to focus on all the other aspects of their jobs.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence application and management advice call 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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