Suspended Sponsor Licence successfully reinstated
Nowadays, for a lot of businesses holding a sponsor Licence has become a must, as without this, it is very difficult to meet staffing requirements. This is particularly true for certain industries that traditionally depended on labour from Eastern European countries.
According to the current immigration rules, if you wish to hire an employee from overseas, irrespective of their country of origin, you need to hold a sponsor licence. Hence why following the UK’s departure from the EU, there has been a surge of businesses applying and getting sponsor licences.
Many feel that once they have secured the Sponsor Licence the work is done and now they can just bring over workers as and when needed. This is a misconception that can have very dear costs to your business. Maintaining your sponsor licence is just as important, if not more so, than getting it. The importance of maintaining your licence increases with your dependency as a business on the licence. If a substantive number of your workforce is from overseas, losing your licence will have catastrophic impact on your business.
We have recently represented such client, a business from healthcare industry, employing nearly 100 people, with over 70% of their workforce being sponsored workers. The client approached us following a suspension of their sponsor licence, as a result of a visit from the Home Office. The Home Office had found them to be in breach of their Sponsor duties and allowed them 20 working days to respond to the allegations of breaches. In absence of satisfactory response, the company stood to lose their licence. This would have meant being forced to stop employing their sponsored workers, which would most likely have led to the business having to close down, given their dependency on foreign workforce.
Reasons for Sponsor Licence Suspension: Sponsor Duties
If you hold a Sponsor Licence, or are considering applying for one, you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of what will be expected of you as a Sponsor. You will have extensive obligations in respect of your foreign employees. From the perspective of the Home Office, holding a Sponsor Licence is a privilege and the employer, as the one benefiting the most from the Licence, is expected to share the burden of monitoring the migrants under their sponsorship. If you are not able to satisfy the Home Office that you are able to adhere to your Sponsor duties, you will lose the licence and the ability to sponsor overseas workers.
The above means that as a sponsor, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you understand your duties and you have processes and systems in place that enables you to meet these duties. As part of your duties, you are required to keep certain records for your employees, such as their personal and contact details, recruitment, employment related agreements and information and so on. You are also expected to monitor and report the migrant workers activities, such as if their starting date is delayed beyond a certain point,if the worker is not reporting to work or if they have taken unpaid leave and so on. There are also details about your own company that needs to be reported to the Home Office, including change of name, address,structure and so on. Apart from specific Licence related duties, you will also need to be compliant with the wider UK legislation.
Sponsor duties can be quite complex and confusing and it is worth having a specialist training for your relevant staff to ensure that they have correct understanding of the Sponsor duties and the relevant company policies.
Home Office compliance visit
If you are new to being a Sponsor, you might wonder how does the Home Office check whether you are keeping to your Sponsor Duties. There are different ways the Home Office does this, including monitoring your submissions to HMRC to ensure you are paying your workers accordingly and so on. However, one of the most important ways the Home Office checks on the Sponsors is through inspection visits.
During the visit the officer will:
- Check on how you keep your records
- Check how you monitor your employees, their activity and whether you understand your reporting duties and adhere to them correctly
- Check your overall compliance with larger UK laws.
In the present case, the inspecting officer was not satisfied that the jobs carried out by the migrants whose files they inspected were corresponding to the description found on their CoS.
In one case, they believed that the person’s role had been exaggerated, to bring their job to a skilled worker level. In another case they believed the job was not genuine.
On top of the above, the inspecting officer was not satisfied with the way the company was keeping the employee details or monitoring their activities. The company had also failed to register a branch, which too is a breach.
What to do if Sponsor Licence is suspended?
Following the visit, the Home Office sent a letter to the organisation informing them of their findings and of the fact that the licence was suspended pending investigation. The suspension letter gives the business opportunity to respond to the allegations.
Our client did the best thing they could do in such a situation, they immediately started looking for an immigration lawfirm that specialises in sponsor Licence matters.They contacted us shortly after receiving the letter and following an initial consultation the team got on with the work.
Twenty working days might seem a long time, but Sponsor Science suspension is never a simple or straightforward issue to resolve, so every day counts. If your Licence has been suspended, the best course of action is to immediately find a top immigration specialist that will help you with the matter.
How we helped our client
As with all such matters the team started by carefully considering the reasons for the Sponsor Licence suspension. We then met with the client to discuss the company’s position and understand whether there were any evidence that the Home Office inspector had missed or was not provided with. This meeting revealed that the management had not understood too well the questions or the requests for evidence from the Home Office, which had led to the inspectors not receiving the required evidence. After gaining an understanding of the actual situation,we then worked with the client to collect the evidence that would demonstrate the correct circumstances. After examining the evidence, our team determined that some of the points raised by the Home office were correct, meaning that the client was indeed in breach of some of the duties. We then proceeded to create an action plan for the client, that would strengthen the team’s understanding of their duties and ensure better compliance in the future.
Our immigration team then put together detailed representations addressed to the Home Office, step-by step examining the issues raised by the Home office and where relevant providing evidence that the breach did not occur. Our proposed action plan concluded the representations. These were sent to the Home Office together with the supporting evidence bundle.
After await of about a month, our client received a letter from the Home Office reinstating the licence. Needless to say the client was very happy with the outcome and so was our team.
If your licence has been suspended, or you had a visit from the Home Office and are worried about your licence, or perhaps you simply would like to have a better understanding of your duties, understand whether your current systems and processes are adequate, then give us a call on 020 3372 5125 to speak to one of our lawyers about our Sponsor Licence and compliance services.