Sponsored migrants who have experienced role changes during or as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning there are undertaking new responsibilities, or who have been redeployed elsewhere within the business, meaning they are carrying out a different role, trigger reporting requirements for sponsors. Employers must ensure that the relevant updates are made to SMS to reflect the sponsored migrant's new duties or role. In some circumstances, changes may even push the migrant's role into a new Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code requiring a fresh Tier 2 application.
Employers should seek legal advice if small or large changes have been made to the roles of sponsored migrants within the business, so that an assessment can be made to ensure that they are still able to work compliantly.
Right to work checks
The Home Office has introduced temporary measures, effective 30 March 2020, to enable employers to carry out right to work checks remotely during the pandemic. Employers must carry out repeat checks within eight weeks of the date these checks are announced as ending. They must also carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who started working for them while the temporary measures were in place, or who required a follow-up right to work check during this period.
Records of both the check carried out during the Covid-19 temporary measures and the retrospective checks should be retained by the employer.
The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic may mean that businesses are considering redundancies. Again, this would trigger reporting requirements which must be recorded using the SMS.
Employers should ensure that they are making notifications within a timely manner, and may wish to seek immigration advice to assist affected employees in considering their immigration options before or after doing so.
Changes to working practices
As the UK transitions out of pandemic lockdown measures and employees start to return to offices, many employers will be considering a staggered approach to returning to office-based working. This means that key personnel listed on the sponsor licence, as well as sponsored migrants themselves, may still be working from home, at least in the short term.
Home Office guidance is relatively silent on working from home, but the practice has historically been frowned upon from a compliance perspective. We are seeking clarification from the Home Office as to whether long-term home working would be acceptable for sponsored migrants if suitable processes and procedures were implemented to ensure that businesses could effectively monitor these workers while adopting a more agile approach to working.
Although key personnel are permitted to work from home, we recommend that sufficient consideration is given to how migrant workers can be effectively monitored by businesses if working from home becomes more common.