Staff Shortages

Staff shortages and overseas recruitment – could your business benefit from a sponsorship licence?

Recruitment challenges are showing no signs of letting up, with businesses everywhere struggling to find and keep the staff they need.

More than three-quarters of those that are attempting to recruit are having difficulties, figures from the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) suggest. Manufacturing is hardest hit, closely followed by hospitality, logistics, and construction and engineering.

It’s a workers’ market; a perfect storm of low unemployment and soaring job vacancies. Workers can pick and choose, forgoing loyalty and long service in favour of better prospects and a better working environment elsewhere. There’s fluidity, perhaps encouraged in part by the cost of living crisis, that makes for a challenging time for employers. And while many have upped their game, improving benefits and giving staff more flexibility, it seems the months (and years) ahead will continue to prove problematic.

The solution for some businesses is to recruit skilled workers from overseas.

Legal working
Employers must make sure that those workers they take on have a legal right to work in the UK. This involves checking identity, nationality and immigration status – at the outset, and on a continuing basis. Getting this wrong can mean civil and criminal penalties for employers; an employer could be fined as much as £20,000 per illegal worker, or receive a five-year prison sentence.

One of the most common forms of business immigration is the “Skilled Worker” route where workers are sponsored by their employer before applying to enter or remain in the UK. Sponsorship comes with a range of monitoring and reporting responsibilities for employers, to make sure that laws are complied with and that the immigration system isn’t abused.

Applying for a sponsorship licence
An employer looking to recruit Skilled Workers, who cannot ordinarily work in the UK, requires a Sponsor Licence. It’s essentially an online application process that involves the employer providing specific information and paying a fee (the amount depends on your size, whether or not you have charitable status, and the type of licence you’re applying for), and it’s followed by a series of compliance checks, including on the people you designate ‘key personnel’ for the purpose of the licence.

The application is quite involved, businesses would therefore be wise to obtain specific advice on completing it properly. Making sure to send the correct supporting documents, for example, is an important aspect of the process and it’s one that employers will be keen to get right so as not to hold things up. There is a risk of an application being rejected if certain information is missing, or if information isn’t provided shortly after submission.

How easy is it to recruit from overseas?
May businesses regularly recruit from overseas, so it is absolutely feasible. The essential part is understanding your legal position and the practical steps that need to be taken:
– the things that need to be in place before a worker can be brought to the UK to work;
– the sponsorship process;
– whether you, and the job you’re recruiting for, are eligible;
– the sponsorship application;
– your ongoing responsibilities under immigration law.

For those businesses whose recruitment challenges mean they’re operating below full capacity (56% of all firms, and 71% of hospitality firms, according to the British Chambers of Commerce), extending their search overseas could be a route to boosting productivity, contributing to wider economic growth.

Could it be an option for you?

To find out more about applying for a sponsorship licence, employing overseas workers, or about any other aspect of business immigration, contact Alex Kiernan on 020 7377 2829 or email [email protected].