Why Sponsor Licence Compliance Matters banner


Why Sponsor Licence Compliance Matters

  • Posted on

Our Immigration Solicitors examine the case of Prestwick Care Ltd & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2023] EWHC 3193 (Admin)

Our London Sponsorship Licence lawyers write many articles on the importance of sponsor licence compliance and warn of the risk that if a sponsoring employer does not meet all their sponsor licence obligations and reporting and recording duties, they might have their licence revoked by the Home Office.

Often sponsoring employers think that the ultimate sanction won't happen to them or they will commit to managing their sponsor licence better in 2024. Other things then get prioritised.

In this blog, our Immigration Solicitors look at a recent case where the Home Office acted and revoked the sponsor licence of a care home company and offer tips on what sponsor licence holders can do to protect their licences.

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

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

Prestwick Care Ltd & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2023] EWHC 3193 (Admin)

If you have the time, it is worth reading the full judgment in this case. Sometimes when you read what has happened to others it gives you the impetus to check your practices and to commit to additional sponsor licence training for key personnel or to an annual audit by Sponsorship Licence lawyers to ensure that you are meeting all your sponsor licence obligations.

In summary, the court case involved a claim by a company called Prestwick Care. It was a bit more complicated than the name suggests as the judicial review claimant was a group of 3 companies operating 15 care homes. The companies employed over 850 staff and roughly a quarter (219) of those employees were in the UK on sponsored work visas.

The sponsor licence holder first secured a sponsor licence in 2008 so they were not new to dealing with the Home Office or to following sponsor licence guidance.

The Home Office decided to conduct a compliance visit. This took place in 2022 and resulted in the Home Office suspending the sponsor licence and then revoking the company's licence in February 2023. The claimant company successfully secured an injunction order to suspend the operation of the revocation and sought to judicially review the Home Office's decision to revoke the licence.

The court refused the judicial review application. A devastating decision for the sponsored employees, care home residents and, of course, the group of companies and its shareholders.

The court was referred to earlier challenges to sponsor licence suspension and revocation as well as to the Home Office Guidance for sponsor licence holders and particularly the passage in the Guidance that states:

‘’The ability to sponsor workers to work in the UK is a privilege that must be earned. When a sponsor is granted a licence, significant trust is placed in them. With that trust comes a responsibility for sponsors to act in accordance with our immigration law, all parts of the Worker and Temporary Worker sponsor guidance, wider UK law (such as employment law) and the wider public good. UKVI has a duty to ensure all sponsors discharge these responsibilities, and that a sponsor's actions (or omissions) do not create a risk to immigration control or are not conducive to the public good.’’

Ultimately, the court concluded that the judicial review challenge failed and that is a salutary warning that even long-standing sponsor licence holders, or those in hard-pressed sectors such as health care, must pay careful attention to all their sponsor licence duties and responsibilities.

Sponsor licence duties and the Health and Care Worker Visa

Sponsor licence duties and Home Office Guidance apply whether a sponsor licence holder is sponsoring employees on Skilled Worker Visas or Health and Care Worker Visas. Whilst it may be easier for a visa applicant to qualify for a Health and Care Worker Visa than other types of sponsored employment the rules for sponsoring employers are the same.

The case of Prestwick Care Ltd & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2023] EWHC 3193 (Admin) emphasises that point and highlights that neither the Home Office nor the court will make concessions for a sector that coped with immense challenges during the pandemic and is currently facing enormous recruitment difficulties. It should be a wake-up call for any business heavily reliant on sponsored workers. However, Sponsorship Licence lawyers warn that even if you only sponsor one or two Skilled Worker Visa holders the loss of a sponsor licence can create enormous reputational damage for a company and that can have a trickle effect on company branding and profitability.

Sponsor licence duties and revocation

The court proceedings highlighted several areas where the claimant company was said not to have met its sponsor licence duties and responsibilities or followed Home Office Guidance, namely:

  1. Different duties were undertaken by some sponsored staff to those contained in the job description on their certificates of sponsorship
  2. Pay was different to the pay stated in the certificates of sponsorship for some sponsored employees. This was in part down to deductions and allowances
  3. Record-keeping issues- such as not obtaining information about changes of address or informing the Home Office on the sponsor management system
  4. Non-compliance with UK employment law – in this case, payment of sick pay
  5. Recouping the immigration skills charge from sponsored employees – in this case, the employer did not specifically say they were recouping the immigration skills charge from their Health and Care Worker Visa holders but they recouped the amount of the certificate of sponsorship and the immigration skills charge from some sponsored employees
  6. Not conducting right-to-work checks properly - and not repeating checks when employees had time-limited entry clearance

The claimant company acknowledged some issues with sponsor licence compliance but strongly argued the case for the retention of its sponsor licence, not least to prevent NHS bed blocking and to enable the discharge of hospital inpatients to care home facilities. The court was not persuaded by this line of argument.

The lessons from Prestwick Care Ltd & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2023]

What are the lessons from this unsuccessful application for judicial review? Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers summarise them as:

  1. If you have had a sponsor licence for several years do not allow your company or key personnel to become complacent about sponsor licence compliance
  2. Ensure you have sufficient key personnel to keep up with record-keeping and robust systems and policies in place
  3. Make sure your key personnel understand the importance of their job and why details matter. For example, job descriptions matching with what is stated on the certificate of sponsorship
  4. Keep up to date with the latest employment law and sponsor licence guidance. You can do this through bespoke training tailored to your company's needs
  5. Ensure your systems are tested. You can do this by allowing Sponsorship Licence lawyers to conduct an annual audit to doublecheck compliance levels
  6. Acknowledge if you have not got the resources to manage your sponsor licence and either appoint additional key personnel or use a professional sponsor licence management service

Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers have substantial experience in advising on sponsor licence management and can help your business with all its sponsor licence, business immigration and employment law needs.

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

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

Related Posts

A 2024 Employers Guide to the Immigration Skills Charge

How the Immigration Rules Changes to the Minimum Income Requirement for Skilled Worker Visas and Health and Care Worker Visas will Work

UK Business Immigration Key Changes in 2024

OTS Solicitors Celebrates its Inclusion in the 2024 Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession

    Get in touch

    Please fill in the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.