In the ever-evolving landscape of immigration regulations, the Home Office recently introduced a significant update to the reporting duties for sponsors holding a Sponsor Licence. Specifically, this update pertains to the new obligation of reporting hybrid working arrangements to the Home Office, marking a departure from the previous exception during the pandemic.
For context, UK employers that wish to hire foreign workers must hold a Sponsor Licence issued by the Home Office. As a part of their Sponsor Licence compliance duties, sponsors must comply with a range of reporting obligations. This includes reporting any changes to the circumstances related to the employment of their sponsored employees.
This blog post explores the exemptions to reporting a shift to hybrid working patterns introduced during the pandemic, the re-introduction of new reporting requirements in a post-pandemic context, and the recent policy shift which seems to seek a balance. Additionally, it will consider the implications for sponsors, and the continued importance of complying with reporting obligations, specifically in the context of remote working arrangements.
Navigating the Pandemic: Temporary Leniency in Reporting Duties
During the height of the pandemic, the Home Office had advised sponsors that it was not required to report on the sponsor management system (SMS) if a sponsored worker transitioned to working from home, whether hybrid or fully remote. This exception was implemented to accommodate the sudden shift to remote work prompted by the circumstances at that time. However, as the effects of the pandemic lessened and employers started considering more permanent hybrid working models moving forward, the Home Office re-evaluated its stance.
Transitioning to Normalcy: Post-Pandemic Reporting Outlook
During the transition back to normalcy post-pandemic, the Home Office introduced a new requirement for sponsors to report on the working arrangements of their sponsored employees, specifically in relation to hybrid and remote working.
Part 3 of the Sponsor Guidance, C1.19-C1.21, implemented the requirement that sponsors must report any changes to the working arrangements of their sponsored employees, including changes to the location where they work, the number of days they work from home or in the office, and any other significant changes to their working arrangements.
However, the Home Office seems to have now made a 180-degree turn in relation to reporting hybrid working arrangements, exempting sponsors from reporting the new working pattern, while retaining the requirement to report a shift to permanent remote working or work location. This change reflects the evolving landscape of sponsor licence responsibilities, as employers increasingly embrace hybrid models.
A Shift in Direction: The Current Reality and Reporting Requirements
In recent private correspondence, the Home Office made clear that it is revising the reporting requirements for sponsor licence holders regarding hybrid working patterns. The official policy has yet to be formally amended, but announcements of impending changes have been made. We will update this blog as the situation unfolds. While it remains the case that a permanent shift to remote working arrangement or permanent change in location continues to need reporting, the Home Office has decided that they will no longer require reporting of hybrid working arrangements.
In short, a sponsor licence holder must now report only the following in relation to alterations of working patterns:
- The sponsored worker’s place of work is permanently moving to a site, branch or office of the organisation that has not been previously declared to the Home Office, or a different client’s site.
- The sponsored worker is shifting to permanent remote working, with little or no requirement to physically attend a workplace.
TIP: the word ‘permanent’ is important here. The guidance states that sponsor licence holders are not required to report occasional changes in workplace location, but only changes to the regular working pattern.
Let’s consider some examples:
Scenario: Kylie is a sponsored worker at a Tech company based in London. After the pandemic, the company required workers to come back to the office full-time. After a period of this working arrangement, it became clear that workers were not satisfied with returning to full-time office working. Recently, the company decided to implement hybrid working patterns, after the Home Office removed the reporting requirement for hybrid working.
Effect: The company would not have to report Kylie’s shift to hybrid working on the SMS. However, if after a period of hybrid working, Kylie is granted permission to shift to a permanent fully remote working pattern, the company would have to report this change on the SMS.
Scenario: Xavier is a sponsored worker for a construction company in Northumberland. His role requires him to work at a specific construction site. This site’s address is listed on his CoS, meaning that it was declared to the Home Office. The work at this site is nearly complete and soon, Xavier will shift to permanently working at a new construction site.
Effect: The construction company must report the change of Xavier’s work address on the SMS, as this will be a permanent change and the address has not been previously declared to the Home Office.
Meeting Reporting Obligations: Key Responsibilities for Sponsor Licence Holders
To ensure that you can meet your compliance duties, sponsors need to ensure that they have appropriate systems and processes in place to monitor and report on the working arrangements of their sponsored employees. This may include implementing new reporting procedures or using technology to track and report on changes to employee working arrangements, when applicable.
While it is no longer necessary to report hybrid working, you should keep records of your sponsored workers’ hybrid or other regular working patterns. This could be essential if the Home Office decides to make a compliance visit. It is important to be capable of demonstrating that you are keeping tabs on the whereabouts of your sponsored employees.
As you are likely aware, failing to comply with the reporting requirements of the Sponsor Licence can result in serious consequences for sponsors, including the revocation or suspension of the licence, and damage to their reputation. Therefore, it is essential that sponsors ensure that they are fully compliant with their reporting duties.
Truth Legal – Sponsor Licence Experts
Truth Legal are experts in all areas of immigration and specialise in all matters around sponsorship.
If you have any questions about reporting duties, want to apply to apply for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence, or have any other issue relating to your sponsor licence or sponsorship, contact us for a free consultation today.