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Sponsoring Remote and Hybrid Workers on Skilled Worker Visas

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A decade ago, remote working or hybrid working was a rare phenomenon. It certainly was not something that Immigration Solicitors were asked about. UK businesses with sponsor licences wanted their sponsored employees in the office, the lab or the work environment. Times have changed and, in some sectors, remote or hybrid working is offered to all employees at a certain level of seniority to attract and retain specialist talent.

The Home Office has recognised the changing employment patterns of sponsored workers on Skilled Worker Visas and has published new guidance.

In this blog, our Immigration Solicitors look at the updated rules and explain how they affect your sponsor licence reporting and recording duties.

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

For immigration and employment advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

New Home Office guidance for sponsors

On 5 March 2024, the Home Office published new guidance for sponsor licence holders in an updated version of its document entitled ‘’Workers and Temporary Workers Guidance for Sponsors Part 3: Sponsor Duties and Compliance’’.

If you hold a sponsor licence and your business is a nursing home or care home or if you are in the construction or hospitality sector then the updated guidance may be of limited relevance to you. However, many digital, fintech, legal and biomedical firms hold sponsor licences where it is feasible to employ mid and senior-level employees remotely or on a hybrid working pattern.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers recommend that if your business is managing its sponsor licence your key personnel receive updated sponsor licence training on the latest guidance. The training may simplify and reduce your sponsor licence reporting and recording duties. Alternatively, if your key personnel were not reporting on home or hybrid working as the previous rules required, the new guidance can help focus on future reporting compliance to avoid the risk of a Home Office audit.

Hybrid or remote working

The latest Home Office guidance distinguishes between remote working and a hybrid working pattern. Therefore, Sponsorship Licence lawyers recommend that when considering recruitment needs and when drawing up job specs and employment contracts the plans and documents are clear on whether the job on offer to a sponsored worker is fully remote, nearly fully remote or involves hybrid working.

If the employment on offer to an overseas job applicant is fully remote the Home Office may question the need for the employee to be based in the UK on a Skilled Worker Visa. That may be a valid point, especially considering the changes made to the Business Visitor Visa and permissible activities if the worker will occasionally be required to be in the UK to attend training or conferences. However, Employment Lawyers may recommend more of an emphasis on a hybrid working contract of employment if the sponsor licence holder needs the flexibility to get the best out of the sponsored employee’s expertise and skill and to cascade it down to their UK-based employees.

Remote working

If your business concludes that it can hire a sponsored employee to work on a remote basis then you do need to tell the Home Office, using the sponsor management system, that the Skilled Worker Visa applicant will be working remotely and if there is a contractual requirement for the sponsored employee to attend a workplace or to visit clients at their home or workplaces.

If the Skilled Worker Visa applicant is considered a ‘’contractual home worker’’ the Home Office guidance says questions may be asked about why the recruit needs to be sponsored to work in the UK and if they could work remotely from overseas.

If there are reasons why remote digital working from overseas would not work for your business then you need to be clear about those reasons and why the recruit entering the UK on a Business Visitor Visa would not suffice for your business purposes. For example, your concerns may relate to digital security, insurance or other specialist factors.

Hybrid working

Hybrid working can take many different forms, ranging from coming into the office 2 or 3 days per week to coming to a workplace for training and supervision meetings once every few months.

Under the old rules sponsor licence holders had to keep tabs on where Skilled Worker Visa holders were working and report this to the Home Office using the sponsor management system. With varied hybrid working for a range of sponsored employees, the job of reporting and recording the work whereabouts of a workforce could be time-consuming and prone to mistakes where the sponsored employee had no set pattern of hybrid working.

In light of the development of hybrid working and in anticipation of hybrid working being here to stay the Home Office's new guidance relaxes the reporting duties. Sponsorship Licence Lawyers believe the change is welcome but overdue as some HR staff and key personnel almost needed tracking devices on sponsored workers so they could accurately keep up with their sponsor licence reporting obligations.

The new guidance says “We recognise that many organisations have adopted a “hybrid working” model, where their workers work remotely (from either their home or another remote site, such as a work hub space) on a regular basis, as well as regularly attending a ‘traditional’ work location (such as one or more of your offices or branches, or a client site). You no longer need to tell us if a sponsored worker is moving to a hybrid working pattern but you must continue to report any changes to their main office work location, or of any new client sites, if applicable, and maintain suitable records of your sponsored workers’ working patterns’’.

It is important that your key personnel and HR staff know how to get the balance right as whilst the Home Office guidance says a sponsor licence holder is only required to tell the Home Office about changes to a sponsored worker’s regular working pattern there is a continued SMS reporting and recording duty if that pattern changes. For example, there is no need to report day-to-day changes in flexible working. However, if the sponsored worker’s official designated office work base changes, then that should be reported.

Employment Solicitors can advise on what is meant by ‘’regular hybrid working patterns’’ as well as advising on the terms of employment contracts whilst our Sponsorship Licence Lawyers can either provide a full sponsor licence management service for a fixed monthly retainer or provide specialist key personnel and HR training designed around your sponsor licence and hybrid Skilled Worker Visa requirements.

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

For immigration advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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