Legal: Hospitality businesses must apply for sponsor licences now

The end of freedom of movement for skilled workers from the EEA could lead to recruitment shortages in the hospitality sector, which businesses must act quickly to avoid says Mini Setty of Langleys Solicitors.

The end of freedom of movement for skilled workers from the EEA could lead to recruitment shortages in the hospitality sector, which businesses must act quickly to avoid says Mini Setty, a partner at Langleys Solicitors…

The coronavirus pandemic has already put a huge amount of pressure on the hospitality sector and, with Brexit on the horizon, businesses are likely to face further challenges. Given the industry’s reliance on foreign workers, particularly chefs and catering professionals, employment law specialist, Mini Setty, urges hospitality businesses to apply for sponsor licences now to avoid future skills shortages.

Speaking to us on the topic, Setty says: “The hospitality industry provides jobs for thousands of workers from the EU and beyond, and as free movement comes to an end on 1st January 2021, it is vital employers are prepared for the new laws. From the new year, employers must hold a sponsor licence to employ talent from outside of the UK and can no longer assume that hires from the European Economic Area [EEA] will automatically be able to take up employment in the country.

“A study by KPMG estimated that the hospitality sector requires 62,000 EU migrants per annum to be able to maintain current activities and to grow. Of course, this is likely to be lower now given the pandemic, but recruitment gaps are a guaranteed way to stunt the industry’s recovery, so employers must be aware of how to avoid them.

“The new immigration system will be points based and the most common work entry route will be via a visa for skilled workers. To qualify for a skilled worker visa, prospective employees must speak English to the required level and be accepting a job from a sponsor licence holder that meets the required skills level – roughly equivalent to A Levels – and salary threshold – £25,600 or the industry average if it is lower. In the context of hospitality this will mainly apply for chefs, who are already in incredibly high demand.

“Sponsor licence applications should be made directly to the Home Office via the UK Visas and Immigration service [UKVI]. The UKVI are expecting an influx in sponsor licence applications in the coming weeks as businesses prepare for more employees in need of sponsorship, so administrative delays are likely. Businesses who are looking to employ foreign talent must apply for a licence as soon as possible to avoid skills shortages, limiting business growth.

“To apply for a sponsor licence, organisations will have to undergo checks to ensure they are genuine, solvent and hiring for roles that meet the required skill and salary thresholds and checks on senior personnel and key users of the licence. There is a licence fee that applicants must pay and a £624 immigration health surcharge to cover the employee’s medical insurance. There is an immigration skills charge, which is used to address skills gaps in the UK workforce, and there are additional fees when applying for certificates of sponsorship and visas for each migrant worker.

“To reiterate, from 1st January 2021, it will be illegal for businesses to hire workers from outside the UK if they do not have a sponsor licence. Considering the sector’s reliance on foreign work, it is important that businesses start planning budgets and applying for sponsor licences now. Failure to do so may lead to organisations becoming short staffed and unable to offer a good service, which could be fatal in the sector’s recovery from the pandemic.”