Remaining compliant: Sponsor licences and mock audit services

5 mins

Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Compliance and Mock Audit Services

Has your business been granted, or is it considering applying for a sponsor licence to recruit or retain your talented workforce? If so, what’s next?

Our immigration experts recommend that compliance processes are reviewed at regular intervals to pre-emptively look for weaknesses which could place the sponsor licence at risk.

For many clients, losing the ability to sponsor non-EEA nationals would have a tremendous impact on their business. Restricting the business’s access to overseas talent for up to two years and inflicting reputational damage.

A mock audit enables a business to have an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses from a compliance perspective and would highlight areas of improvement were the Home Office to audit internal systems and processes. Should the Home Office to find regular or serious failings in compliance, they may downgrade or revoke a sponsor licence. This would restrict the business in recruiting and keeping overseas talent needed for the continued functioning of the business.

It is therefore strongly advisable you seek professional advice and assistance from an experienced legal team such as Price Bailey Legal Services, who would be able to provide a report in the same format of how the Home Office would view your current compliance position to assist the business in avoiding any shortcomings which could be later found by the Home Office.

Common issues in a mock audit:

  • late reporting of changes to circumstances of a sponsored employee;
  • missing records from personnel files;
  • insufficient structural/organisational ownership of compliance processes.

Late reporting

Where a sponsored employee has a change in responsibilities or job title, it is essential that you ensure that the amended role remains under the same Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code. If the job type remains the same, it is often the case that the SOC code remains the same. In this situation, an update must be made on the sponsor management system in a similar way to a change in salary, work location, or when an employee leaves the business. You have ten working days to report such changes to the Home Office.

If the Home Office is not updated within this time frame and a pattern of late or none reporting emerges, this may give rise to a Home Office audit and a potential downgrade or even a revocation of your sponsor licence. It is therefore essential that where such situations arise, the relevant persons responsible for the upkeep of the sponsor licence are informed of any such decision at the earliest opportunity.

Missing records from personnel files

The keeping of records is an essential component of the compliance aspect of a business holding a sponsor licence. A lack of proper right to work checks (could link this to the other blog post), could also give a reason for the Home Office to downgrade or revoke your sponsor licence.
A mock audit is a useful exercise, where records are sampled and checked in the same way that the Home Office would if they were to conduct an audit. Failing to have proper Right to Work Checks will be used as evidence by the Home Office of a business not having the correct safeguards in place to avoid illegal working and could lead to a downgrade or revocation. If an employee of the business is found to have been working illegally, the Home Office could also issue a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.

Structural/organisational ownership of the compliance processes

As a business grows, there can be growing pains related to the decentralisation of responsibility and implementation of immigration compliance. This tends to be between local HR teams outside of the main branch of the business and local line managers being relied upon by the commercial centre to undertake the processes required to assure compliance. It remains the responsibility of the commercial centre to ensure that compliant practices are developed and enforced through the entire organisation.

The whole organisation must remain in sync, where there is a split of responsibility between the central and relevant HR local teams or managers (depending on the size and structure of the network of the business).
The business is responsible for its sponsor licence as one entity regardless of geographical variance between its different sites. Therefore, the impact of non-compliance within one area of the business will risk the business in its entirety being deemed by the Home Office as non-compliant.

Any issues found by the Home Office in an audit can be damaging to a business not only financially but to its reputation. The downgrading of a sponsor licence could impact recruitment and retention of overseas talent.

This post was written by Joanna Smye, at Price Bailey Legal Services. If you would like to know more about anything discussed in this post then please contact Joanna using the form below.

We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.

 

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