There is absolutely no doubt that recruiting overseas staff for hospitality roles in the UK has become more difficult as a result of Brexit and COVID-19. According to the latest BBC news, the UK’s hospitality industry is experiencing a rapidly rising worker shortage, with vacancies currently at their highest ever levels. With the ending of free movement between the UK and the European Union from the 1st January 2021, the ability for hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses to hire lower-skilled staff Home Office has Europe has been severely curtailed. As a result, we are now working with many businesses across the UK to help them find new and creative ways to recruit the staff they need; an especially pressing concern given the impact of the COVID-19 and the current ‘pingdemic’. If you are desperately trying to find enough hospitality staff domestically, what are your options for sourcing recruits from overseas?
There is a widespread perception that the Skilled Worker visa (which replaced the Tier 2 General visa) is for highly skilled sponsorship only, but this is not the case. This is because the Home Office lowered the skills threshold in anticipation of Brexit from degree level to college level (i.e. A-level). As a result, the list of roles for which overseas nationals can be sponsored to work in the UK grew considerably to include a wide range of senior hospitality positions (admittedly at the more senior end of the spectrum), including chefs, floor managers, licensees, and publicans. The full list of eligible occupations under the Skilled Worker route is available on the Home Office website. We highly recommend looking at this list to see whether at least some of the roles you are currently struggling to fill are included. It is important to note that the Skilled Worker visa route does impose a minimum salary requirement of £10.10 per hour (this is £25,800 for those on a full-time salary). That said, it is possible for a lower salary to be paid in certain circumstances; the Home Office rules state, “You can be paid between 70% and 90% of the usual going rate for your job if your salary is at least £20,480 per year and you meet one of the following criteria: your job is in a shortage occupation, you’re under 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training”.
If the Skilled Worker visa may solve at least some of your recruitment needs, you will need to secure a sponsorship licence in order to sponsor an overseas candidate.
Many businesses assume that if they find a suitable candidate who is from the EEA/EU and is currently living in the UK and they have not applied for EU Settled Status, it is too late for them to apply, and hence they cannot hire them. In some cases, it may be possible for them to apply even though the EU Settlement Scheme closed for applications on 30th June 2021. The Home Office guidance for caseworkers tells them, “In line with the Citizens’ Rights Agreements, there remains scope, indefinitely, for a person eligible for status under the EU Settlement Scheme to make a late application to the scheme where, in light of all the circumstances and reasons, there are reasonable grounds for their failure to meet the deadline applicable to them”. Examples of reasonable grounds for a late application to the EUSS include:
Remember, in order to make a late application under the EUSS, candidates must have been living in the UK before the end of 2021. While a late application is not a possibility for many, it may be for some suitable candidates.
There are several other immigration routes that may enable UK hospitality businesses to find suitable overseas candidates, as follows:
We are not suggesting that the options outlined above are sufficient to resolve the shortage of hospitality workers in the UK entirely, but they may offer a partial mitigation. If you would like to discuss any of the immigration routes outlined above as a means of resolving your hospitality worker crunch, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to explain more.
To find out more about the EUSS or hiring overseas workers, please phone us on 0121 777 7715 to make an appointment with one of our Immigration Solicitors based in Birmingham and London.
Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice.