For a long time, the care sector in the United Kingdom has been under pressure, primarily because of staff shortages which have in turn been exacerbated by the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID pandemic. To help alleviate these pressures on the sector, the Government has introduced changes to the Immigration Rules (“the Rules”) to come into force on 15 February 2022 which will aim to attract workers from overseas.
This change to the Rules introduces care workers and home carers as eligible roles under the Skilled Worker route. This follows the recommendations presented by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in 2021 to address the shortage in carer skills. These roles will also be listed on the Shortage Occupations List which carries the additional benefits of reduced visa fees and lower salary thresholds than other Skilled Worker roles.
Changes to the Immigration Rules
From 15 February 2022 care workers and home carers will be added to the list of eligible occupations for Skilled Worker visa sponsorship and to the Shortage Occupation List for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland under the Occupation Code 6145 (Care Workers and home carers).
Benefits of this Change
Inclusion in Appendix Skilled Occupations will mean that foreign nationals, including EEA nationals, will have a route to employment in the UK that can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (“ILR”) after 5 years’ residence in the UK. Inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List sets the minimum salary requirement for individuals in this occupation at £20,480 and/or £10.10 per hour. This will give employers greater flexibility to sponsor workers in the UK who would previously have been out of scope.
Impacts of this Change
Care homes and other employers within this sector will need to apply for a sponsor licence to take advantage of the new, flexible rules in relation to sponsoring carers from overseas. For organisations without a sponsor licence, an application to the Home Office will be required – this can take several months to come through. Once issued, Home Office compliance requirements (including reporting, monitoring and record-keeping) will need to be met by the organisation throughout the life of the licence. This can form a significant, additional burden on top of the Care and Quality Commission and associated regulatory requirements to which the organisation is subject.
The addition of Carers and Home Carers to the list of Skilled Worker eligible occupations aims to relieve some pressure caused by the pandemic on the health and social care sector whilst addressing a long-standing concern about resourcing the UK Care Sector post-Brexit. However, organisations will not benefit unless a sponsor licence is held for the purpose of sponsoring Skilled Workers. Private households will not be eligible to apply for a sponsor licence to employ domestic workers. This will make it difficult for home carers, as well as some employers to take advantage of the scheme.
At Magrath Sheldrick LLP we provide Immigration and Employment assistance for clients in all sectors, including those within the healthcare field, and are well placed to guide organisations and individuals through the process of sponsoring overseas nationals as carers in the UK.
For further details on how these changes impact you or on obtaining a sponsor licence please contact your Magrath Sheldrick LLP advisor.