The ‘new normal’ – How the hospitality sector can utilise the Immigration system to plug recruitment gaps

The ‘new normal’ – How the hospitality sector can utilise the Immigration system to plug recruitment gaps

In recent years recruiting key staff has become an existential challenge for many businesses in the hospitality sector.

Amidst the maelstrom of seismic events impacting the sector – leaving the EU and the resulting end of Free Movement, the pandemic, energy costs and high inflation – it can be difficult to identify which changes are permanent, which are temporary and the current lie of the land.

To recruit workers from overseas, savvy businesses are making sure they understand the “new normal” of the UK immigration system, and ensuring they are utilising its potential for recruitment.

As this new system will be here for the long term, here are three key areas to consider:

The Home Office Sponsor Licence – sponsoring Skilled Workers

To recruit workers from overseas, businesses need to obtain a Sponsor Licence. In hospitality, the positions eligible for sponsorship are chefs and management level staff.

There are two things for businesses to consider before applying for a Sponsor Licence: the costs involved,  and the resources required to comply.

First the good news. The resources required to comply should not put off any business. Every organisation, whatever size, already has HR responsibilities and ultimately compliance is an extension of existing HR practices.

The costs on the other hand will be a decision for each business to make, based on whether the benefit of an increased workforce is worth the initial fees and ongoing costs.

A major advantage of sponsoring is that after five years a Skilled Worker can apply to settle permanently in the UK, if they remain in sponsored employment.  In other words, employers have a higher prospect of greater staff retention.  So, when weighing up the initial costs, businesses should remember that retaining a consistent workforce can also reduce the costs associated with constant recruitment churn.

Visa Holders in the UK

Other essential staff not eligible for sponsorship as Skilled Workers includes bar, waiting, reception and housekeeping roles.  The opportunities for recruitment do not end there, however, as visa holders already in the UK can work without requiring sponsorship.

Student Visa holders can work 20 hours during term time and full-time outside term-time, ideal for retention across the busiest periods for hospitality – Christmas, Easter, and Summer.

Upon graduating, Student Visa holders can obtain a two-year Graduate Visa and work in any job. If their experience warrants promotion to management level positions, the business has the option of offering   sponsorship as a Skilled Worker when the Graduate Visa runs out. Reduced visa fees and minimum salaries apply to businesses who wish to sponsor Student and Graduate Visa holders as Skilled Workers.

Right to Work checks

UK businesses are legally obliged to establish that every employee has a Right to Work and failure to comply can result in a hefty civil penalty if a business is found to have employed someone who does not have that right. This punitive regime however should not discourage businesses from widening their recruitment pool.

The UK workforce is international and being faced at the recruitment stage with a multitude of visa types is also part of the new normal. Establishing a Right to Work should be a relatively straightforward task. Building knowledge and confidence to conduct these checks gives a business the maximum potential for recruitment.

Given the complexity and costs, there’s no doubt a level of ‘future shock’ exists for hospitality businesses in adapting to the new normal. However, keeping all options open  and obtaining the relevant knowledge is key to moving forward.

This article is featured in The Caterer.

For more information, please get in contact with Mark Templeton or your usual Anderson Strathern contact.

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