Remote & Hybrid Working for Skilled Workers
If you are currently sponsored as a Skilled Worker you may wish to work from home or be considering if this is possible with your permission to be in the UK. Alternatively, your employer who holds a sponsor licence may be considering reducing physical work spaces and allowing hybrid working practices.
This is applicable for those currently working or with a job offer from an Home Office approved sponsor, the register of which can be found here.
The job must be an eligible skilled job, the list of which can be found here. These roles have both skill and salary requirements.
As a Skilled Worker, Am I Allowed to Work From Home?
The Home Office guidance on remote working is vague, but it is inferred that it is allowed, as it mentions it under reporting duties.
It is worth differentiating remote working and hybrid working. Remote working means that an employee does not have a fixed workplace and may work from home or an alternative space full-time. The Home Office guidance defines hybrid working as “where the worker will work remotely on a regular and planned basis from their home or another address, such as a work hub space, that is not a client site or an address listed on your licence, in addition to regularly attending one or more of your offices or branches, or a client site.”
For remote workers, it may call into question why an employee is required in the UK if they can effectively carry out their duties from elsewhere. It is therefore important that employers are able to clearly set out why this is the case in case the genuineness of the role is questioned.
Does This Include Any Additional Work to my Sponsored Role?
Under the Skilled Worker visa, you are able to take on additional work to the role you are sponsored for so long as you are continuing to do the sponsored role. This additional role may be remote work, subject to the following.
You are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week in a role that is either:
- In the same occupation code and at the same level as the job you are sponsored for, or
- In a shortage occupation, split into healthcare and education shortage occupations and all others
If you wish to work over 20 hours a week or in a job that has a different occupation code, you will need to apply to update your visa so that you are sponsored to do both jobs. This will mean you need a new certificate of sponsorship from the second employer and to write a letter alongside your fresh application detailing that you wish to change your current permission to stay in the UK.
Did the Covid-19 Pandemic Change Remote Working Permission?
The Skilled Worker visa was designed prior to the pandemic and way it altered cultural working practices. The Home Office updated guidance for sponsors during the pandemic. Regarding working from home, it states that it is not necessary to notify the Home Office if employees are working from home due to coronavirus. It states that other changes in working arrangements should be reported. However, although this guidance is still current, it is broadly no longer relevant.
As an Employer With a Sponsor Licence, Do I Have Additional Duties if My Employees Are Working From Home?
Holding a sponsor licence is subject to duties and responsibilities, further information on which can be found on the Home Office website here.
These duties are imposed from the date your licence is granted until the date you surrender your licence or it is revoked. Your duties towards each employee start on the date the certificate of sponsorship is assigned.
These duties include:
- Record-keeping duties, as set out in Appendix D. Alongside this, conducting right to work checks for each employee is good practice.
- Reporting duties, which include reporting if a worker does not report for work, changes to their employment, absences over 10 days without permission and if an employee no longer works for your organisation.
- Compliance with law, including the Immigration Rules and broader UK law.
- Not engaging in practices that are not conducive to the public good.
These measures should be taken with a Home Office compliance visit in mind, which can take place at any point.
The guidance was recently updated, providing specific advice regarding a worker’s change of work location. It states that it must be reported to the Home Office if a sponsored worker’s normal work location, which is the address recorded on the certificate of sponsorship, changes. This includes if:
- The worker is or will be working at a different office, branch or site of the organisation, or a different client’s site, not previously declared
- The worker is or will be working remotely from their home on a permanent or full-basis (with little of no requirement to physically attend a workplace)
- The worker has moved, or will be moving, to a working pattern.
It is specified that day-to-day changes in work location do not need to be reported if occasional. It is only necessary to alert the Home Office of changes in regular working patterns.
It is therefore entirely possible to work from home as a sponsored worker but oversight is needed to ensure compliance with obligations of sponsorship. Sponsor organisations should particularly ensure the work location as set out on certificates of sponsorship are an accurate representation of each worker’s normal pattern of work.
Consequences of Non-compliance With Sponsor Licence Duties:
The Home Office has a wide discretion as to the consequences of non-compliance. These include cancellation of the migrant(s)’ permission to stay, reducing allocations of the certificates of sponsorship, downgrading the licence, suspending the licence or revoking it.
If the Home Office has reason to believe an offence, either civil or criminal, has been committed, they will report this to the relevant authorities.
Contact our Business Immigration Barristers
For expert advice and assistance with Sponsor Licences or compliance issues contact our business immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.