Recruiting from Overseas and the UK Care Home Sector banner


Recruiting from Overseas and the UK Care Home Sector

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Published by the Head of Business Immigration, Mr Hans Sok Appadu and Sponsorship Licence Lawyer, Miss Sanae Sahebjalal

If you are a family-owned London-based business with one nursing home or a multi-site operation (such as Barchester Healthcare, Four Seasons Health Care, or Care UK) with 200 plus specialist nursing and care homes you will share the same problem; care home recruitment.

Whatever the size or the specialist nature of your care or nursing home business the feedback our immigration solicitors receive from the full range of care home providers is that recruitment from within the UK or from overseas is a major headache. It affects everything from the capacity to meet patient needs to feedback on reviews and inspections.

As business immigration law specialists with many years of experience working with nursing and care home providers and in helping carers obtain health and care worker visas, in this blog, we answer your frequently asked questions on sponsor licences and sponsoring health care workers.

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

For specialist care home related sponsor licence advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

What is the earliest date that sponsored care workers can start working?

Nursing and care home businesses are understandably anxious that sponsored care workers can commence their employment ASAP, despite the delays that often arise when criminal record checks are required for some jobs in the care sector.

Under old immigration rules sponsored workers couldn’t start work with their sponsor until the date on their certificate of sponsorship. In addition, there were complicated rules if a worker needed to delay their start date.

Since late 2022 the Home Office has adopted a more flexible approach to start dates for health and care worker visa and skilled worker visa holders. Sponsored employees can now commence their employment early provided they:

  • Have been granted a visa
  • They have permission to live and work in the UK – this needs to be current at the time of their employment start date

The relaxation of the rules on start dates is likely to benefit care and nursing homes recruiting non-UK nationals who are already living in the UK. For example, carers who have been persuaded to join your company because of a golden hello or other incentive.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers stress that if a care home worker starts their employment earlier than first anticipated the care or nursing home must carry out a right-to-work check before the employee starts their employment. Waiting to carry out the right-to-work check until the date on the certificate of sponsorship is a breach of the illegal working legislation and could result in penalties for the sponsor licence holder.

What happens if a sponsored worker delays their employment start date?

There are often reasons why start dates need to be delayed leaving sponsor licence holders uncertain of what they need to do to ensure full compliance with their licence duties. The Home Office has relaxed the rules on delayed start dates for sponsored workers on skilled worker and the health and care worker visas.

Under the old immigration rules, sponsors were required to stop sponsoring overseas sponsored workers if the recruit’s employment start date was delayed by more than 28 days from whichever was the last of:

  • The date the sponsored worker was informed of the grant of entry clearance or permission to stay
  • The valid from date on the worker’s entry clearance vignette
  • The start day on the certificate of sponsorship

Delays to start dates had to be reported to the Home Office using the sponsor management system within 10 working days. Failure to report in that timeframe potentially resulted in a Home Office audit or questions being raised when the sponsor licence came up for renewal.

The revised rules mean that a sponsoring employer only has to report a delayed employment commencement date if it amounts to a delay of more than 28 days. Overburdened HR directors and key personnel have embraced these changes as they reduce red tape.

If the employment delay goes beyond 28 days an employer can still sponsor a care worker. That’s the case even if the reason for the delay isn’t related to the worker’s contractual notice period. Under the new rules, there has to be an acceptable reason for the delay.

What amounts to an acceptable reason is assessed by the Home Office. Examples given by the Home Office include awaiting clearance from the worker’s home country, illness, bereavement or other compelling family or personal circumstances. The Home Office list is non-exhaustive and our experience is that the Home Office is receptive to being open about what amounts to an acceptable reason if the case worker is provided with sufficient explanation.

If a Home Office official decides that the reason given for the worker’s delayed start isn’t acceptable the new member of staff’s visa could be curtailed. The more usual scenario is that the worker has to apply for a new health and care worker visa and wait for it to be granted before they can start their employment. Any fresh visa application must be submitted before the end of the curtailment period.  Otherwise, the worker will be classed as an overstayer and that will affect the outcome of their second health and care worker visa application.

If you are uncertain about whether a delay in start date beyond 28 days is likely to be deemed acceptable it is best to speak to your Sponsorship Licence lawyers for guidance. Whilst it may be tempting to ignore the 28-day rule and reporting requirement because of your recruitment pressures and staff shortages it isn’t worth it as you might place your sponsor licence at risk of being downgraded or even suspended.

What clearance, if any, is required from a health and care worker visa applicant’s home country?

A few countries require a work visa applicant to secure an exit permit. Whether a permit is required may depend on the visa applicant’s circumstances. For example, Singapore or the Philippines where clearance is required from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO).

The requirement to obtain an exit permit can delay a start date as even if the health and care worker visa applicant is keen to begin work in the UK red tape in their home country can delay matters. This isn’t the problem that it used to be. Provided the applicant can provide evidence that they have applied for exit clearance from their home country and are awaiting a decision then even if their start date is pushed back beyond 28 days the Home Office should conclude that the delay in commencing employment is for an acceptable reason and allow the sponsorship to proceed.

Care home sponsor licence questions

Whether you are operating one or 200 care or nursing homes you will inevitably have sponsor licence questions.

As specialist business immigration team and Sponsorship Licence lawyers we have substantial experience in sponsor licence management. We provide a sponsor licence management service for a fixed monthly retainer to take the burden off in-house staff to manage these legal obligations. We can answer all your sponsor licence and health and care worker visa queries.

Our sponsor licence range of packages includes:

  • Pre-first sponsor licence application audit and assessment to prepare for your sponsor licence
  • Ongoing compliance advice
  • Full retained services where we handle all your sponsorship licence work

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

For specialist care home related sponsor licence advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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