*****Editor’s note – This article was originally published in December 2021, when this change was announced by the Department for Health and Social Care, but has been updated now that we know the exact date of implementation*****
From 15th February 2022, for the first time in over a decade, care worker roles will be eligible for sponsored work visas – now called the Skilled Worker route. These roles will be included on the Shortage Occupation List and qualify for a ‘Health & Care Worker’ visa of up to 5 years, simplifying the process and reducing the overall cost.
Up until now, it has only previously been possible to sponsor senior care workers (occupation code 6146) , with the employer needing to show that the role included supervisory responsibilities. This meant that care homes and domiciliary care agencies were severely limited in the number of senior care workers they could sponsor – not everyone can have supervisory responsibilities!
But from January 2022, employers will now be able to sponsor care workers (occupation code 6145) without the role needing to include these supervisory responsibilities.
> Full breakdown of the differences between care workers and senior care workers
The Office for National Statistics lists the following example responsibilities for these 2 occupation codes:
|Care workers and home carers (6145)||Senior care workers (6146)||Comments|
|Routinely oversees and monitors care workers and home carers||Only relevant for senior care workers|
|Takes responsibility for the shift and for the service while on duty||Only relevant for senior care workers|
|Responds to emergencies and provides guidance and support to care workers||Only relevant for senior care workers|
|Assists and enables service users to dress, undress, wash, use the toilet and bathe||Assists and enables service users to dress, undress, wash, use the toilet and bathe||Identical for both roles|
|Serves meals to service users at table or in bed, assists with feeding if required||Serves meals to service users at table or in bed, assists with feeding if required||Identical for both roles|
|Generally assists with service users’ overall comfort and wellbeing||Generally assists with service users’ overall comfort and wellbeing||Identical for both roles|
|Provides interest and activities to stimulate and engage the service user||Provides interest and activities to stimulate and engage the service user||Identical for both roles|
|Helps with daily activities such as letter writing, paying bills, collecting benefits||Helps with daily activities such as letter writing, paying bills, collecting benefits||Identical for both roles|
|Undertakes light cleaning and domestic duties including meal preparation as required||Undertakes light cleaning and domestic duties including meal preparation as required||Identical for both roles|
|Monitors service users’ conditions by taking temperature, pulse, respiration and weight, and contributes to record keeping||Monitors service users’ conditions by taking temperature, pulse, respiration and weight, and contributes to record keeping||Identical for both roles|
|Liaises with professional staff in carrying out care plans etc.||Liaises with professional staff in carrying out care plans etc.||Identical for both roles|
This change means there is effectively no longer a limit on the number of care workers an employer can sponsor. It is now possible (at least in theory – read on for cost considerations) for all of an organisation’s care workers to be sponsored migrant workers.
What are the requirements?
As with senior care workers, care workers will need to be paid the higher of:
- £10.10 per hour
- £20,480 per annum
This is still a relatively high salary for care worker roles – in 2021, the median hourly salary was below £10.10 in the majority of the UK’s regions.
> Median hourly salary for care workers by region, 2021
|Region||Care worker||Senior care worker|
|United Kingdom as a whole||£10.19||£10.93|
|Yorkshire & The Humber||£10.05||£10.88|
|United Kingdom as a whole||£10.19|
|Yorkshire & The Humber||£10.05|
Separately, the employer must obtain a Sponsor Licence – an involved process which typically takes several months but is valid for 4 years once granted.
The applicant will need to meet the English language requirement – in most cases this means passing an English language test at level
B1 (conversational English) or above.
The applicant and any accompanying partner must also obtain police clearance certificates from any country in which they have lived for at least 12 months in the last 10 years.
What does this all cost? is it financially viable to sponsor care workers?
It’s important to note that the costs vary considerably depending on whether or not the employer is a small company for accounting purposes
> Full breakdown of sponsorship costs for care workers
|Small company for accounting purposes or charity||Not a small company|
|Once every 4 years|
|Getting a Sponsor Licence||£536||£1,476|
|Per person you want to sponsor|
|Paid by the company|
|Assigning a Certificate||£199||£199|
|Immigration Skills Charge||£1,092*||£3,000*|
|Normally paid by the applicant|
|Immigration Health Surcharge||£0 (exempt)||£0 (exempt)|
If you are a small company for accounting purposes, the application fee for the Sponsor Licence (which lasts 4 years before needing to be renewed) is £536. For each person you want to sponsor, you’ll need to pay £1,523 (£232 of which is normally paid by the applicant).
If you are not a small company for accounting purposes, the application fee for the Sponsor Licence (which lasts 4 years before needing to be renewed) is £1,476. For each person you want to sponsor, you’ll need to pay £3,431 (£232 of which is normally paid by the applicant).
N.B. these amounts assume you are applying for a visa of up to 3 years (longer visas are available at higher cost). Where the applicant is an EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish citizen, these costs are slightly lower.
By way of an example, for a small company to obtain a Sponsor Licence and sponsor 10 care workers, it would cost a total of £13,446 in official fees. For a larger company to do the same would cost £33,466.
There are a few other points to bear in mind when looking at the financially viability of sponsoring migrant workers:
- As an employer, you are not permitted to pass the Immigration Skills Charge on to the applicant – this is strictly prohibited
- Partners and spouses can usually accompany the applicant to the UK and will have the freedom to work in any role without sponsorship. Where the partner is also looking for a job in the care industry, you may be able to get two employees for the price of one.
Using an immigration lawyer or consultant can seem expensive, particularly if you are looking for assistance with each and every application you make. We work with a number of care providers and have extensive experience of helping employers build in-house capability to support these applications without needing to pay an external consultant for each and every application. Getting support with the Sponsor Licence application and the first few sponsorship applications you make is a great way to learn how the system works without the risks that come from trying to do everything yourself from the start.
We pride ourselves on always working collaboratively with our clients – we don’t hold knowledge back and keep our expertise locked in a ‘black box’. There is no mystery to our service – we’re just experts in this process, and we’re happy to help you gain the necessary knowledge and expertise!
This change is encouraging – it shows that the Government is listening to the UK’s care sector, which has been calling for this for a long time. In practice, the £10.10 minimum salary and high cost of sponsorship means that not all care providers will benefit. Small employers in Scotland and the South and East of England will be best placed to take advantage of these rule changes, whilst larger employers in the Midlands, North and Wales will find it harder to make this work financially.
If you’re interested in understanding how these changes effect your business, please get in touch for a free initial assessment and a conversation about how best to proceed and how we could help.