Sick Leave and Skilled Workers – a Guide for UK Businesses With Sponsorship Licences banner


Sick Leave and Skilled Workers – a Guide for UK Businesses With Sponsorship Licences

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Immigration solicitors know that key personnel tasked with the management of a sponsor licence for a UK business take their responsibilities seriously. That isn’t just because their job depends on it but because the financial success of the company may rest on the ability of the business to recruit overseas workers. In addition, the ambitions of the sponsored workers to live and work in the UK, and ultimately secure British citizenship, also rest on the work of sponsor licence key personnel.

When a sponsored worker is absent from work on sick leave it isn’t just sorting out staff cover that’s important for HR staff.  The company also needs to comply with sponsor licence reporting and recording duties to avoid compliance issues for the business and the sponsored employees. In this guide our business immigration solicitors take a look at the key points on sick leave and sponsored employees.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence and management advice call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

HR, sick leave and sponsored employment

Anyone who tells you that HR is easy probably hasn’t worked in HR for any period of time or managed a Home Office issued sponsor licence to sponsor skilled worker visa holders. When you aren’t recruiting, allocating certificates of sponsorship, conducting right to work checks, you are immersed in grievance and complaint handling. Throw in a few appraisals and staff consultations and that is your average day.


When staff call in sick that is an ‘added extra’ headache for HR staff. If the sick employee is a sponsored employee, working  on a skilled worker visa, there are additional considerations because of the sponsor licence reporting and recording duties. Sponsorship Licence lawyers say it is best to have rigorous procedures for sick leave reporting, such as a call to HR staff, rather than reporting absence to an individual line manager or department head, who may not immediately action a sick leave referral to HR or understand the significance of the member of staff being a sponsored worker.

The sponsor licence sickness reporting duties

A sponsor licence holder has a duty to keep employee records as well as to report certain matters on the Home Office sponsor management system (SMS).

When it comes to sponsored employees, there is a sponsor licence requirement to monitor attendance at work and absence through sick or holiday leave. That is why Sponsorship Licence lawyers, who conduct mock audits in advance of sponsor licence applications , recommend a central sickness reporting line for all employees, rather than department based reporting, and a HR system that flags sickness absence by a skilled worker visa holder.

To the employee, there should be no difference in treatment of the settled or sponsored employee, but the reporting system needs to be devised so HR staff can quickly identify if the member of staff calling in sick is a sponsored employee and if their sick leave has reached the threshold to report it to the Home Office on SMS.

Reportable sick leave

Key personnel need to report a sponsored worker’s sick leave to the Home Office on SMS in circumstances where:

  • The sponsored worker has not turned up to work on the first day of their employment – even though the worker may have called their employer to report that they are unwell and they have been placed on authorised sick leave
  • The sponsored worker is absent from their employment for more than ten consecutive days and they don’t have permission to be absent. If a worker has called in sick, and their absence is an authorised absence under the company sickness policy, then the absence is not reportable. If a skilled worker visa holder has not followed company sick leave reporting policies (such as provision of fit notes) and their absence therefore isn’t permitted, then an absence of more than ten days may be reportable
  • Salary is reduced because the skilled worker visa holder is on long term sick leave or the worker has returned to work on a part time basis to adjust back to work after an operation or a serious illness
  • The sponsored worker’s job role has changed from that stated on their certificate of sponsorship. The change in role may be temporary until the worker has fully recovered from their illness
  • The sponsored worker has taken unpaid leave for a period of more than four weeks. Absence for four weeks would normally result in the end of the sponsorship but permitted long term sick leave without pay is a reportable absence but the employer does not have to terminate the employment. If the visa holder’s employment is terminated (as it is apparent that the worker will not be able to return to their sponsored role or to other work that meets the eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa and new certificate of sponsorship) key personnel are under a duty to report the termination of the worker’s job to the Home Office using SMS. This report will trigger the curtailment of the skilled worker’s visa. The employee will then normally have sixty days to switch visa, find new employment with a sponsor licence holder, or leave the UK

The immigration rules and deadlines mean it is best to have a coordinated approach between departments toward sick leave absences or a centralised system to avoid delay in absences being reported to HR staff. It is also crucial that all workers understand, as part of their induction process, the importance of complying with sick leave and absence polies and the requirements that an employer is duty bound to follow if a worker is in the UK on a skilled worker visa.

Sponsored workers, sick leave and employment rights

Sponsored workers have employment rights and it is important to juggle those with the responsibilities of an employer to the Home Office and their sponsor licence reporting and recording duties. An employer can be put in a tricky position where the skilled worker visa holder is asking for reasonable adjustments because of a disability arising from an accident or through long term health complications. The worker may argue that with reasonable adjustments they can return to their sponsored employment but as an employer you may believe they are not physically able to do so without placing other workers at risk.

Whilst it is understandable that the sponsored worker does not want to put their certificate of sponsorship at risk by taking on a different role in the company that does not fit a standardised occupation code for the skilled worker visa or doesn’t meet the minimum salary threshold, the employer also has responsibilities to the Home Office, their other employees and customers. That’s why its best to get legal advice from Sponsorship Licence lawyers who can answer all your questions on sick leave and sponsored workers from both an immigration and employment law angle.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence and management advice call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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