The transition period for Brexit, and therefore free movement for EU citizens, has now ended. This means EU workers will now need specific permission to work in the UK like anyone else. Here are some common questions about how recruitment will be affected.
I want to recruit an EU worker who is already in the UK. Can I ask for proof that they have settled status?
You can’t ask for proof of either settled status, pre-settled status, or of an ongoing application for either. You do need to ask for proof of the right to work in the UK, just as you always do. However the EU Settlement Scheme is open to EU workers already resident in the UK until 30 June 2021, which means until then, there is no change in the documents an EU worker needs to provide in respect of their right to work. An EU passport or national identify card or other already-acceptable document is enough. If they have settled status already, they can provide that as their proof, but you can’t ask for it.
If they won’t be eligible for settled status I’d rather not recruit them as I want someone to stay long-term. If I can’t ask them, how will I know they’re eligible?
The short answer is you won’t. You can’t ask them for settled status, and you can’t ask them whether they arrived in the UK before 1 January in order to assess whether they will be able to stay. Neither can you make an offer contingent on those things. This obviously represents a problem for employers but at the moment that is the situation, until 30 June.
What are the new options for recruiting non-British nationals?
There is now a new points-based immigration scheme in operation, which applies to all non-British and non-Irish nationals wanting to work in the UK.
A number of different routes are available, but the most common and likely to be most relevant to SMEs, is the Skilled Worker route. Applicants under this route will need to achieve a total of 70 points in order to be granted a visa.
How does the points system work?
The 70 points needed to obtain a visa is made up of a minimum of 50 mandatory points, and a further 20 which are ‘tradeable’.
‘Tradeable’ means that an applicant with higher qualifications will be able to trade this against a lower salary and still achieve the right number of points.
How does the worker achieve the mandatory 50 points?
To achieve the 50 points needed under the mandatory list, the worker will need a job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points), at the required skill level (RQF 3/A Level or above)(20 points), and will need to speak English to the required level, either demonstrated through a test, or through having a degree in English language (10 points).
All jobs have a corresponding Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code, with a designated skill level, which determines whether the job meets the requirements.
The job offer must also be at or above the applicable minimum salary threshold, which is the higher of either the general salary threshold set by the Government on advice of the independent Migration Advisory Committee at £25,600, or the specific salary requirement for their occupation, known as the “going rate”.
What tradeable qualifications will bring the extra 20 points necessary?
The remaining 20 points needed to be granted a visa are ‘tradeable’, and allocated as follows:
- Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher) – 0 points
- Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher) – 10 points
- Salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher) – 20 points
- Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migrant Advisory Committee (MAC) – 20 points
- Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job – 10 points
- Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job – 20 points
How do I apply for a sponsorship license to recruit skilled workers?
You can apply for a sponsorship licence through the gov.uk website. You will need to pay a fee, which will be £536 for small companies, or for larger organisations, £1,467 for a licence to take on long-term staff, and £536 for temporary staff. For these purposes if you employ at least 50 employees and have a turnover of at least £10.2m, you’ll be considered a large company.
Your application will take about eight weeks. If it is urgent you can ask for a decision within 10 days, as long as you pay an additional £500 and are making one of the first 10 applications of the day.
What criteria does my business need to meet to be a sponsor?
There are a number of initial and ongoing criteria you will need to meet if you want a sponsorship licence.
You will need to appoint people to some specific responsibilities under the scheme. You’ll need an Authorising Officer, a senior person with overall responsibility, a Key Contact – someone who will be acting as the main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration, and a Level 1 User, who is the person responsible for day-to-day management of your licence through the sponsorship management system (SMS). Some of all of those roles can be filled by the same person
Suitability checks will be carried out on you and anyone involved with sponsorship for your company, and if any relevant individuals have unspent criminal convictions or previous fines related to immigration or fraud offences, or have had a licence revoked in the past 12 months.
What ongoing responsibilities do I have?
As well as initial requirements, you must keep up with ongoing responsibilities otherwise your licence may be withdrawn. You will need to comply with the following:
- checking and keeping records of your foreign workers skills or relevant professional qualifications
- only assigning certificates of sponsorship when the job meets the criteria
- telling UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) if sponsored workers breach any conditions of their visa, or if there is any other problem such as they stop attending work
- report any significant changes in the business within 20 working days, such as a merger, insolvency or other substantial change
- keep UKVI informed of any details changing in respect of your organisation such as relocation or new people fulfilling the allocated sponsorship roles
- ensuring foreign workers under 18 have suitable care arrangements
There are a number of other things you should already be doing that are also specifically required under the sponsorship licence scheme:
- monitor employees’ immigration status, keeping copies of relevant documents including right to work information and passport
- track and record employees’ attendance
- keep employee contact details up to date
- get Disclosure and Barring Service checks where this is necessary for the role
What happens when I want to give a new skilled worker a certificate of sponsorship?
Assigning a certificate will happen through the Sponsorship Management System. If you’re applying for someone who is coming to work from outside the UK for six months or more, or is working for any length of time and is already in the UK, you’ll have to pay an additional fee each time, known as the Immigration Skills Charge.
This will be £364 for the first 12 months, followed by £182 for each additional 6 months, for small employers or charities. Medium or large sponsors will pay £1,000 for the first 12 months and £500 for each additional 6 months.
It sounds like a lot of hassle and expense, is it worth it?
Ultimately that is a question for you – if you’re not sure, it may be a case of taking some time to assess whether you are struggling to recruit suitable workers from within the UK before making the decision. If you have been recruiting lots of EU workers, and are worried you may struggle, you should assess the roles you normally recruit EU workers for against the criteria, in order to see whether sponsorship under the scheme is even going to be an option.
If you need further advice on Brexit and how if affects your business, do get in touch.