Sponsored Workers – 28 day start date rule change

Sponsored Workers – 28 day start date rule change

Historically, under the old rules, a sponsored worker could not commence employment until the start date on their certificate of sponsorship. The only flexibility offered by the Home Office was to allow a sponsored worker up to 28 days from the start date on the certificate of sponsorship to take up their employment. This concession did not help sponsor licence holders and recruits who were able to bring forward start dates if they got their work visa early or were released by their former employer from working notice. It also did not provide flexibility for workers whose employment start date was delayed for over 28 days.

The revised Home Office guidance on start dates and certificates of sponsorship makes 2 small but important changes.

First, sponsored recruits can start their employment once they have permission to enter or stay in the UK. They no longer must wait until the official start date on their certificates of sponsorship and the sponsoring employer does not need to report the early start date on the sponsor management system. Secondly, UK employers can delay the commencement of sponsored workers’ employment beyond 28 days after the date on certificates of sponsorship if there is a good reason to do so. In the updated guidance the Home Office provides a non-exhaustive list of good reasons for the delay, such as the worker’s ill health, travel restrictions due to a pandemic or conflict, or exit issues from the worker’s home country or from their previous employment.

It is important to note that if the Home Office concludes there was no good reason for a delayed start date the worker’s visa could be cancelled. The delayed start date of over 28 days must be reported on the sponsor management system no more than 10 working days after the end of the 28-day period.

The updated sponsor licence guidance provides UK sponsor licence holders with greater flexibility on employment start dates and reduces the administrative burden on key personnel. However, business immigration and employment solicitors stress that employers must still conduct a right-to-work check before an employee commences work if the start date is brought forward. If the employment start date is deferred it is vital to keep an eye on the 28-day clock and to record the good reason for the beyond 28 days delayed start date.

Our senior business immigration solicitor Rashid Uzzaman comments:

The subtle but important change signals a rare softening of stance from the Home Office. The Home Office had previously taken a very hard line on the matter, the change indicates that the caseworkers at the home office can use their discretion in more circumstances than before. That is very welcome when UK companies are struggling to recruit the skilled workers needed to grow their business.

How we can help your business

Keeping up to date with sponsor licence guidance and complying with reporting and recording duties can be hard work for sponsor licence holders, whether your business is a start-up, SME or a scale-up with a busy HR department. Seeking business immigration and employment advice can save your business time and money.

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