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05 Oct 2021


Supply chain fears, seasonal shortages and sponsorship licenses: Boris’ plan to save Christmas

The UK Government has announced its intention to make thousands of temporary work visas available to address the labour shortages in the road haulage and poultry farming industries. Dubbed “Boris’ plan to save Christmas”, how easy will it be for UK employers to recruit overseas workers to fill critical labour shortages in the supply chain?

Unfortunately, it will not be as straight forward as any road haulier or food processing business being able to recruit workers from overseas.  Even assuming that an organisation can find overseas workers willing to relocate to the UK on a short term basis, a business cannot simply obtain a visa and recruit.

It is anticipated that the additional visas will form part of the T5 Seasonal Worker Scheme. With the ending of free movement of labour from the EU, UK companies are not able to recruit EU migrant workers, such as HGV drivers and agricultural workers.  All non-UK residents wanting to work in the UK must have a work visa.  However, in order to obtain a work visa, an employee must have a Certificate of Sponsorship provided by a licenced UK sponsor employer.

Most employers have not applied to become licenced sponsors.

Licensed to recruit…

To be able to sponsor workers from overseas, UK businesses have to apply for a Sponsorship Licence by submitting an application form with supporting documents to the Home Office.  The application form is then assessed against the licence eligibility criteria and the organisation must be able to demonstrate that it can meet the ongoing Sponsorship Licence duties.

Therefore, before a business can actually recruit a short term seasonal worker, it has to be a licenced sponsor and, obviously, obtaining the Sponsorship Licence will likely take a few weeks.  Although there is an expedited scheme – available for an additional fee – to apply for a Sponsorship Licence, employer feedback on this process is mixed.

Even the expedited process will likely take at least 2 weeks to be processed.  It is only employers with a valid T5 Worker Sponsor Licence that will be able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship to potential workers wishing to work on a short term basis in the UK.

Help from the Home Office

The other factor that needs to be considered is how quickly the Home Office will be able to process individual visa applications.  Given that there is a 3 month window in which the Government is allowing these visas, the timescales to obtain a Sponsorship Licence and time to process work visa applications, may leave little time available for organisations to obtain any  benefit under the Government’s proposed arrangements.

If employers are interested in taking advantage of the temporary working visas in these sectors, then they need to be considering making an application for a Sponsorship Licence immediately.

If you require any support or assistance in terms of making an application for a Sponsorship Licence, please do not hesitate to contact Daniel Wilde, Head of Employment at Harding Evans on wilded@hevans.com, 01633 760662 or visit www.hardingevans.com.

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