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FAQ on supplementary employment under the UK immigration rules

Some sponsored workers under certain visa routes can undertake other work for another employer in addition to the one their certificate is assigned for in limited circumstances. This is called ‘supplementary employment’.

This can be a tricky area for employers to navigate but it’s important to get right to ensure your business is compliant with immigration rules. This article covers some of the key questions asked about supplementary employment.

Who can undertake supplementary employment?

Only individuals sponsored to work in the following routes can undertake supplementary work:

Main work visas:

  • Skilled Worker
  • Intra-Company routes (in place before 11 April 2022)
  • Senior or Specialist Worker (only if they qualify under a transitional arrangement)

Temporary Work categories:

  • T2 Minister of Religion
  • Creative Worker
  • International Sportsperson
  • Government Authorised Exchange (GAE)
  • International Agreement (only if the worker has been granted as an employee of an overseas government or international organisation)
  • Religious Worker

There are different rules for those on a Scale-Up Worker Visa who are undertaking ‘additional employment’.

What roles can be undertaken as supplementary employment?

It is important to note that any work or activity undertaken as supplementary employment outside of what the worker is sponsored for must:

  • Appear on the Immigration Salary List; or
  • Be within the list of eligible SOC codes (Skilled Workers only) and where the work is removed from this list, that employment must be terminated; or
  • Be in the same profession and at the same professional level as the work for which the Certificate of Sponsorship was assigned.

What are the conditions for supplementary employment to be legally permissible?

In addition to the requirements for the role:

  • The work cannot be for more than 20 hours a week.
  • Any work must be outside of the normal working hours for their sponsor employer.
  • The worker must continue to work in their sponsored employment for their sponsor employer throughout.

Are there any restrictions on how many hours an employee can work for their sponsor employer to allow them to undertake supplementary employment?

There is no maximum limit to the number of hours a sponsored worker undertakes for their sponsor employer as long as this complies with Working Time Regulations and meets the relevant salary criteria for their sponsorship route.

Before employing a worker undertaking work with them as supplementary employment, an employer may want to consider whether it is practical for them to employ someone in this way as the worker’s priority will be their sponsored employment. Where a worker is required to undertake regular overtime for their sponsored employer, the employee may be too tired or over committed to meet obligations in a supplementary employment role.

Does overtime for the sponsor count as supplementary employment?

No, overtime undertaken by sponsored workers for their sponsor employers does not count as supplementary employment. This is part of their sponsored employment and there is no limit to the number of hours a sponsored worker undertakes for their sponsor.

Employers would, however, need to ensure that any overtime complies with Working Time Regulations and meets the relevant salary criteria for their sponsorship route.  

Do you need to sponsor an employee working for you in supplementary employment?

A sponsored employee can work for any employer when undertaking supplementary employment and that employer does not need to hold a sponsor licence. So, your organisation does not need to sponsor an employee when they are working for you in a supplementary employment capacity.

Does the Home Office need to be informed when you take on a sponsored employee?

No, you do not need to notify the Home Office when an employee is undertaking supplementary employment for you if they are already sponsored by another employer.

How do you conduct a right to work check for an employee who is undertaking supplementary employment with you from 2024?

As an employer, you will need to undertake a right to work check in compliance with the Home Office guidance here and obtain confirmation that the individual can undertake supplementary employment.

Additionally, as their employer, you should obtain a letter from your employee’s sponsor employer confirming:

  • That the individual continues to work for their sponsor;
  • The worker’s normal working hours; and
  • The job description and SOC code for the worker’s sponsored role.

You should also check with your employee whether they are undertaking supplementary employment elsewhere, in case they may exceed their 20 hours permissible limit. If that is the case, you are unable to employ them.

The Home Office’s ‘Employer’s guide to right to work checks’ guidance, which was published in February 2024, also provided further clarification on recent changes to this. (this guidance is actually referenced in the link above and i incorporated the detail in this answer – do we still want to include this paragraph ?)

How does an employer protect themselves from liability when employing a worker in supplementary employment?

There are currently no reporting or compliance requirements imposed on the employer employing a sponsored worker in supplementary employment.

However, as an employer, you need to ensure and be able to evidence that you have undertaken the correct right to work checks in compliance with the Home Office guidance and that you have obtained confirmation that the individual can undertake supplementary employment.

Any correspondence obtained from the worker’s sponsor employer should be placed on file.

We also advise you to obtain your worker’s confirmation as to whether they are undertaking any other supplementary employment in writing.

What steps must an employer take where a worker who works for them in supplementary employment stops working for their sponsor?

When a sponsored employee stops working in their sponsored employment (or if the employer’s sponsor licence is revoked), they are unable to continue working in any supplementary employment. You must therefore terminate their employment where this comes to your attention.

What is the difference between ‘supplementary employment’ and ‘secondary employment’?

Supplementary employment is employment of 20 hours or less that is undertaken by a sponsored worker for another employer, meeting all the relevant role criteria as set out in the section above. The individual will not be sponsored by the other employer hiring them in supplementary employment in these circumstances.

Secondary employment is where a worker is sponsored by a second employer as well as their first sponsored employer. The individual would need to make a second visa application and have this approved before taking on the secondary employment and they would work in this role in addition to their first sponsored employment.

Employers will decide whether they want to offer sponsorship to an individual who is already sponsored by another employer and working in such a role. Typically, this often occurs in roles for dentists and doctors where they may work for more than one business or trust and the second employer wants them to work more than 20 hours a week.

If you have any further queries in relation to the above or would like to discuss sponsorship for your workforce, please do not hesitate to contact our business immigration lawyers.

About our expert

Fozia Iqbal

Fozia Iqbal

Senior Business Immigration Solicitor
Fozia has been practising in the field of immigration law for over 20 years, specialising in Business Immigration since 2015. Fozia has advised an array of businesses, from start-ups to multinationals, owner-managed businesses through to SMEs, as well as individuals looking for immigration solutions. With a range of experience across the board, it is unusual for her to come across an immigration issue that she cannot tackle. 

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