Employing foreign scientists and technicians and complying Home Office regulations is a difficult task for many UK laboratories. The United Kingdom is altogether suffering from skills shortages. The situation will be aggravated by decline of the EU workers. moreover, in this scenario this backdrop, academic laboratories of healthcare and private sector in the UK are opting for international recruitment for meeting the personnel requirements for various specialist/technical roles. Presently all the skilled workers hailing from non-European Economic Area nations have to hold a valid Tier 2 visa for gaining the UK employment. Moreover, they have to be sponsored by the local employer who has the Sponsorship License.
The Tier 2 visa processing is long-drawn-out and extremely demanding for the employers as well as the employees. Complying with it is important to maintain the staff levels and also for operating laboratories effectively.
Also the applying for the license involves a big cost and is a major achievement for the employers; it does not denote the end of the journey. Sponsor license holders have to work out for many continuing and burdensome compliance duties that require daily management techniques for complying with regulations of the Home Office.
In January 2021, the immigration rules are scheduled to change and there is a lot of hope and expectation for the new system among the employers in this sector.
Non compliance of these duties leads to imposition of penalties against employers, a fine up to £20,000 for every illegal worker, suspension/loss of license and restricted visas for the Tier 2 workers.
For small employers, the impact of action is financially devastating. For large employers, the breaches can escalate, quickly and impact on the migrant workforce. There will also be a demand of extensive resource to resolving these issues.
Standard work practices in professional laboratories can put organizations at the risk of enforcement action.
Common areas posing a risk for lab managers in assessing non-compliance of potential immigration:
1. Visa restrictions
Sponsorship licenses prescribe and specify the activities of sponsored workers in the Tier 2 visa, covering, work hours, duties and location.
Sponsored employees can carry out direct tasks corresponding with the job description and the assigned Classification code. When the Home Office conducts an unannounced inspection of premises officials while considering license renewal applications when they find a sponsored employees present without permission and works outside the permission, there is a ground for enforcement action.
They must follow the working pattern approved by the license. Avoid Significant and consistent overtime work.
2. Record keeping
Home Office insists for an Effective record keeping.
There must be employer documentation for enforcement purpose. In practice, it is a challenge for employers to meet the necessary standards consistently on an ongoing basis, to copy and retain right to work records in a right manner.
A vital area is the leavers’ personnel records. The Home Office requests employee documentation for two years after the employee leaves the employment. Do not delete or destroy personnel records.
3. Salary levels
The Home Office can make a cross-reference regarding the information with HMRC records of the individual. This is an issue of quality of intelligence, leading to better information immigration investigations going against license holders.
Salary payments are also an area of concern. Employers must not breach immigration rules as well as employment legislation.
Compliance after Brexit reforms
There are concerns in the innovation, science and research establishments that the government can first perform the new system and not consider the needs of the industries. Moreover, there may be an issue for the Lab Technicians regarding the minimum salary threshold.
With Brexit scenario immigration will depend on Home Office permission/documentation. This will create new compliance risks for employers.
Finally, the employers should study the impact of the new system on the recruitment strategies, budgets as well as processes. It is good to prepare well and see that immigration practices are advanced and compliant adapting to the changes.