New Hybrid and Remote Working Sponsorship Reporting Requirements

Business Immigration, 08 March 2024

It’s been over three years since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world of work forever and has forced employers to re-think the way they do business.  While some workers have returned to the office full-time, as we’ve entered the “new normal”, hybrid, flexible and asynchronous work are popular in the post-pandemic world. 

In recognition of the above, the Home Office has published updated sponsor duties and compliance guidance on 5 March 2024 for organisations which hold a sponsor licence, to clarify the reporting requirements on hybrid and remote working of skilled workers. 

What are the sponsorship reporting requirements for hybrid and remote working?

UK employers who sponsor migrant workers on the Skilled Worker and Global Business Mobility visa routes, must comply with Home Office sponsorship duties and obligations.  This relates to record keeping, reporting and cooperating with the Home Office.

In accordance with the current guidance, sponsors must tell the Home Office if a sponsored worker’s normal work location as recorded on their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) changes. This includes where:

  • The worker is, or will be, working at a different site, branch or office of your organisation, or a different client’s site which was not previously declared as part of the worker’s sponsorship
  • The worker is, or will be, working remotely from home on a permanent or full-time basis (with little or no requirement to physically attend a workplace)

The above changes must be reported to the Home Office using the ‘Report migrant activity’ function in the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) within 10 working days of the change of work location occurring.

What are the new clarifications?

The updated sponsorship guidance explicitly states that the Home Office recognises that many organisations have now adopted a “hybrid working” model, where workers work remotely (from either their home or another remote site, such as a work hub space) on a regular basis, as well as regularly attending a ‘traditional’ work location (such as the office or a client site). 

Here’s a quick overview of the key takeaways from the updated guidance:

  • You no longer need to tell the Home Office if a sponsored worker is moving to a hybrid working pattern, but you must continue to report any changes to their main office work location, or of any new client sites, if applicable, and maintain suitable records of your sponsored workers’ working patterns.
  • You do not need to report day-to-day changes in work location (for example, if a worker occasionally works at a different site, or from home). You only need to report changes to their regular working patterns.
  • You must, however, tell the Home Office, via your Sponsorship Management System (SMS) account, if any sponsored worker is, or will be, working entirely remotely, with little or no requirement to attend your premises or a client site (a contractual home worker).

If any sponsored worker is, or will be, working entirely remotely, with little or no requirement to attend your premises or a client site, the Home Office reserves the right to ask you to explain why you need to sponsor the worker in the UK if, for example, they could work remotely from their home country.

What happens if you do not comply with your sponsorship duties?

Compliance checks may be taken on the basis of a reasonable suspicion that you have breached your sponsor duties or are otherwise no longer suitable to hold a licence. This may be based on a poor previous record of compliance such as failing to adhere to reporting requirements.

The Home Office has a range of measures to make sure that it enforces sponsors’ duties and identifies incompetent, or otherwise inappropriate sponsors early on. Actions which may be taken include:

  • Reducing your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) allocation
  • Downgrading your licence to a B-rating
  • Suspending your licence
  • Revoking your licence
  • Cancelling the permission of your sponsored workers to remain in the UK

Where the breach is a relatively minor issue and you are willing and able to correct it, the Home Office will, in most cases, support you in making the relevant improvements by downgrading your licence to a B-rating and issuing a time-limited action plan which sets out the steps you must take in order to retain your licence. 

If your licence is downgraded to a B-rating, as well as having to comply with a time-limited action plan, for which you must pay a fee, you will not be allowed to sponsor any new workers until you have regained your A-rating.

How can we help?

Hybrid and remote working have evolved to be realistic and productive working models for many businesses worldwide, but these working practices bring with them important considerations to be taken into account when hiring foreign nationals in the UK.

We can provide comprehensive advice to employers and their HR teams sponsoring foreign nationals as regards the considerations (including working location considerations) which must be taken into account when assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) for migrant workers as well as during the entire duration of their employment.

If you wish to apply for a Sponsor Licence to hire foreign nationals in the UK, we can also assist.

For more detailed UK immigration advice and for any other questions on this and other UK immigration developments, please contact us at info@viajeukimmigration.com