Questions asked during Covid-19 by Employers who are Sponsorship License Holders

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK has been subjected to restrictions related to travel, quarantine, and lockdown. These restrictions have led sponsorship license holders to have a few concerns about their employees. Here, we try to address a few of those concerns

  1. If a sponsored worker cannot travel to the UK, can his start date be delayed?

Previously, the start date of a Tier 2 worker could be delayed for up to 28 days from the time the visa was granted. But now, due to the restrictions related to Covid-19, the employee may not even be able to travel to the UK.

According to the Government Guidance, the Certificate of Sponsorship issued by the license holder, which may have become invalid because the employee could not travel, will still be accepted. But each case will be reviewed separately. Whether the start date can be delayed or not depends, not on any general rule, but on the particular case in consideration.

  1. Can a sponsored employee be placed on furlough?

The government of UK has confirmed that a sponsored employee can be placed on furlough. The furlough scheme will not come under public funds. So, there is no reason to worry even if there is a condition on the visa that it cannot access public funds.

If employers have placed a sponsored worker on the Job Retention Scheme or have reduced the salary, they must report it through SMS (Sponsor Management System).

  1. How are Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsorship duties affected?

Because of Covid-19, many sponsored workers have not been able to come to the workplace. It could be because of travel restrictions, illness, or quarantine measures.

Previously, the employer was required to report an employee’s absence if he was missing on the first day of work or has been absent, without permission, for 10 days straight. But now, the Home Office has announced that an employee’s absence need not be reported if it is related to Covid-19 or the restrictions that come with it.

Also, previously, license holders were told to discontinue the sponsorship of an employee if he has been absent for 4 weeks or more unless of course, the absence comes under the listed exceptions e.g. maternity leave. But now, the Home Office has declared that license holders can continue sponsorship and no action will be taken if they do so.

However, license holders must keep in mind that even now, reporting duties and record-keeping duties must be complied with and all absence records must be maintained.

  1. Can visa holders who are currently in the UK extend their visa or switch visa categories if they are unable to travel because of the restrictions?

Back in May, the government had announced that a visa holder, if unable to return home, can extend the visa or switch visa categories until July 31 2020. Later, this period was extended up to 31 August. However, it applied only to those who’s visa got expired after January 24 2020.

But if the visa holder is still not able to leave, then he or she can request for an additional time of stay by contacting CIT (Coronavirus Immigration Team) and applying for ‘exception assurance’ via the online form. The assurance does not grant you leave but it will protect you from the consequences of not leaving the UK.

If you are unable to leave even on the date mentioned in the assurance, you must apply for it again at least a few days before the date.

For further enquiries or clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact experts in this subject at Aristone Solicitors.

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