According to the government, more than 40,000 social care staff left the sector between April and October 2021. Care homes are struggling to find people willing to do this difficult work and, according to current estimates, there are over 100,000 permanent vacancies to be filled. The recruitment pool shrank further in November after the government made it illegal for care homes to retain or employ anyone who had not been fully vaccinated unless they were medically exempt.
The UK government has added care workers to the list of shortage occupations in a bid to boost recruitment. This means care homes will be able to sponsor a much larger group of foreign workers to help ease the pressure.
The Home Office maintains a list of jobs/titles that UK employers are struggling to fill. Currently, this includes senior health executives and nursing aides and orderlies. However, from Tuesday, February 15, 2022, it will be expanded to include nursing aides, nursing aides, nursing aides, home nursing aides, home nursing aides and care aides in nursing homes . This is a pilot program which will initially run for 12 months, after which the Home Office will reassess the situation and decide whether to extend the program.
This article discusses the issues you need to consider if you want to recruit a foreign worker into one of these roles.
What measures must retirement homes follow to recruit staff from abroad?
Care homes must meet specific requirements before they can recruit overseas social workers. You must be an eligible employer who includes the NHS, an NHS provider or an organization providing adult social care. And you must hold a sponsor license in the skilled worker category.
If your care home is not allowed to recruit social workers from overseas, you will need to apply for a license as soon as possible. Fees are payable; small sponsors pay £536 and larger sponsors £1,476. The whole process takes around eight weeks, so you’ll need to factor this into your recruitment plans. It may be possible to pay an additional fee of £500 to expedite your application and get a decision within 10 days. But this service is limited and is assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
Once you have a sponsorship license, it usually lasts for four years.
The government has said it will help support potential sponsors through the process, what it calls ‘engagement activities’, so if you want to explore the possibility of taking out a sponsorship license, seek them out. .
Can private households apply for sponsorship licenses under this program?
No. Although home care workers are included in the shortage occupations list, the changes are not designed to allow home care workers to be sponsored as skilled workers unless they work for an organization that meets the requirements. sponsorship (such as a retirement home). Private households generally cannot sponsor skilled workers.
What criteria must healthcare workers abroad meet?
The UK operates a points-based system and social workers, like any other eligible worker, need 70 points.
Any foreign national wishing to work in care homes in the UK must have a valid certificate of sponsorship issued by a sponsor approved by the Home Office and authorized to sponsor the job in question. They do not need academic qualifications for the new roles, but they must be able to speak and understand written English at a minimum level.
They must also be able to support themselves (and their dependants) for the first month of their stay in the UK or have written proof that you will cover these costs (which must appear on the certificate of sponsorship). In addition to this, they must obtain criminal record certificates from any country where they have lived for at least 12 months, either continuously or cumulatively, within the last ten years. This requirement also applies to any partner who accompanies them to the UK.
How quickly can foreign workers obtain a visa?
If the worker meets the qualification criteria set out above, their application must be processed within three weeks.
How much do we have to pay foreign workers?
You must also pay them at least £10.10 per hour (£20,480 per year based on a 39 hour working week).
Although salaries vary (depending on region and role played), these rates exceed the average rates paid to social workers in the UK. For example, Skillsforcare published data for 2020/21 which indicated that the average hourly rate for adult care workers was around £9.01 per hour.
What other fees do we have to pay to sponsor social workers abroad?
Once you have your sponsorship license, you will need to pay additional fees for each worker you sponsor. If you are a small sponsor you pay £364 for the first 12 months and £1000 for the same period if you are a medium or large employer for the Immigration Skills Charge. Additionally, you may have to pay a fee of £199 for the awarding of a certificate of sponsorship to a social worker.
If you are looking to recruit a number of people overseas, these additional costs will soon add up.
Sponsors sometimes pay the application fee (£232 for a visa up to 3 years, or £464 for over 3 years) and the immigration health surcharge of £624 per year (the visa fee use of the NHS) to entice foreign workers to accept the roles. However, these roles are exempt from the surcharge, so you don’t need to factor it into your calculations.
Is this a permanent change?
No. This is a temporary change to the Health and Care visa process and will only be in place for 12 months.
Can foreign workers on a visa bring their families to the UK?
Not without a visa. Dependents can apply to join a family member on a skilled worker visa provided they meet the criteria. If their application is successful, their visa will end at the same time as the person holding the skilled worker visa.
Will the temporary changes help you?
Quickly tracking foreign workers to job vacancies seems sensible and logical, but is unlikely to solve the problem.
Last summer the UK was short of 60,000 HGV drivers and the government introduced a temporary route allowing foreign drivers to work in the UK. At the time, vacancies were advertised for around £40-60,000, with some going as high as around £90,000-100,000. Despite this, very few foreign drivers applied for visas (only 127 foreign HGV drivers were reported to have applied under the emergency visa scheme and only 20 UK visas were issued).
The salaries offered to foreign truck drivers were high, but this did not attract a sufficient number of applicants (although the fact that the program lasted only a few months will have deterred many from uprooting their families). Additionally, there was a shortage of drivers across Europe, which meant salaries were high across the board. This scheme lasts longer, but I doubt a starting wage of £10.10 an hour would have the same appeal, unless overseas workers hope to use the visa as a means of settling here.
Even if foreign workers apply, the visa regime is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. The relaxation of visa requirements is limited to 12 months and it is reasonable to assume that once these more relaxed rules fall, the pool of foreign workers will dry up. And, unless employers can convince more people in the sector, who already have the right to live and work here, the problems will persist.
This article first appeared in the February issue of Care markets