Since the Covid pandemic and Brexit, employers have been looking overseas to fill vacancies. Clients tell us that they need help finding good staff who will stay in the job within the resident population of the UK. This, therefore, means a growth in Sponsorship licences which the government grants to employers to enable them to recruit from overseas thus employing migrant workers.
In return, the employer must ensure that migrant workers remain legally in the UK. In fact, all employers share responsibility for ensuring that they do not employ illegal migrants. Sponsors have extra duties and if they fail to meet these duties, they lose their licence. Be mindful that in 2022 the government suspended 416 sponsorship licences and revoked 315.
In January 2023, the government announced it would ‘ensure every available power across government is utilised to support law enforcement activity to identify and reduce illegal migrants in the UK and ensure only those eligible can work, receive benefits or access public services’ .
There has since been an increase in enforcement activity. For sponsors, this means a Home Office audit and a visit from Home Office inspectors. An audit examines the sponsor’s HR systems and records to check whether the sponsor complies with their duties. The inspector might also interview employees and check that migrant workers are doing the right job at the right salary.
Sponsors should prepare themselves at any time for a Home Office audit, either before the licence is issued, after it is issued, or perhaps when it is renewed. The sponsor must show that it keeps migrant contact details up to date, keeps track of absences, has good recruitment practices and regularly reviews the right to work for all its employees. These rules change periodically, so whoever is in charge of human resources should be aware to keep up to date.
An employer faces fines up to £20,000 per worker if immigration enforcement catches them employing migrant workers illegally. The employer will also receive a visit from the Home Office if they hold a sponsorship licence. Additionally, the government regularly publishes a list of employers who have received a fine.
Please contact a member of our team if you have any questions about migrant workers and the right to work.