Labour shortages are creating difficulties and delays across many areas of the UK economy, in the wake of COVID-19.

The lack of access to a skilled and readily available workforce is problematic for many industries, particularly hospitality, health and social care, construction, engineering, and education. The UK Government has placed many roles within these industries on the Shortage Occupation List, allowing recruiters greater flexibility to hire candidates from overseas.

These industries are becoming increasingly reliant on recruitment agencies to quickly source the staff required. Agencies seeking an advantage would be well-advised, therefore, to consider immigration law training for their staff to make the most of this opportunity. The ability to provide expert immigration advice allows agencies to reduce the costs and complications of UK skilled worker visas and give their clients clear direction on how to recruit foreign workers.

UK skilled worker visa

Sponsoring a UK skilled worker visa, or Skilled Worker Sponsorship as it is also known, is often a complex, expensive and time-consuming process. Any employer wishing to sponsor an overseas candidate has a legal responsibility to comply with immigration law – with heavy fines and potential prison sentences for those who are found to be in contravention of these rules.

New immigration laws treat EU citizens in much the same way as non-EU citizens, so all overseas candidates are now subject to the same visa sponsorship processes.

However, in October 2020, the UK Government reduced the minimum salary required for UK skilled worker visas. Having previously set this figure at £35,800.00 in 2011, the  Home Office reset the minimum at either £25,600.00 or £20,480.00, dependent on other qualifying factors.

There are two sides of the coin when it comes to recruiting overseas workers:

  1. Firstly, companies must hold a sponsorship licence in order to hire foreign workers;
  2. Secondly, foreign workers must obtain a skilled worker visa before they come to work in the UK.

Opportunities for recruitment agencies

A skilled worker visa can only be provided by the company the candidate will work for. Therefore, a recruitment agency cannot sponsor a candidate unless he will work as a recruitment consultant, or in some other form of direct employment for the agency. If recruiting for, say a restaurant in the hospitality sector, then the restaurant would need to hold a sponsorship licence before it can recruit foreign workers.

However, if recruitment consultants are qualified to provide immigration advice, their services can be provided to clients who wish to provide employer sponsorship to overseas candidates. This can greatly reduce time, cost, and administrative pressure on the client, and create a more viable option for companies wishing to access the skills and talents of workers willing to continue their careers in the UK.

Many of the roles on the Shortage Occupation List allow for a lower minimum salary than £25,600.00, which means that the additional costs associated with visa sponsorship are offset for the employer. Additionally, both employer and candidate can take responsibility for some of the costs of the sponsorship process – although these fees can quickly mount up for individuals wishing to relocate their families to the UK, so any overseas recruitment process should factor these costs into the marketing strategy they use to recruit.

In the wake of the UK’s departure from the European Union, there are now sizeable opportunities available to any agency capable of facilitating a consistent flow of labour from overseas. Qualified immigration advice is essential for any recruiter wishing to ensure that these critical industries receive the support they need, but before that stage you’ll need to ensure your business receives immigration law training.

Here at Pacific Legal Training, we specialise in immigration law training for individuals and organisations and we can train your staff on Sponsor Licence Compliance and Applications. Get in touch today to discuss how we can provide the skills your company needs. For legal advice on preparing Sponsorship Licence, contact Pacific Law.