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Can A Skilled Worker Work From Home?

Working from home is a large part of workforce mobility, and as such, enabling workers to work from home is an integral part of modern workplaces. Therefore, when Skilled Workers come to the UK on a Skilled Worker visa, employers need to consider the laws, rules, and regulations regarding working from home.

If you need assistance in understanding when a Skilled Worker can work from home or even when can a Skilled Worker work hybrid, speak to one of the legal advisors at IAS. We are experts in immigration law and how it affects businesses. Give us a call at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or contact us online today and get the advice you need.

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    What Are The Laws For Skilled Workers Working From Home Or Hybrid?

    When an employer employs remote workers from overseas or enables existing sponsored workers to work remotely from an overseas location, it is pivotal that they carefully consider just what employment rights these workers have in these instances.

    Generally, a sponsored worker will have the same rights, regarding statutory rights, as a British employee; however, they may have additional potential under the law of employment if they work from their home country remotely.

    In the same regard, a remote overseas worker can also benefit from having local employment rights and UK-based additional rights that are set out in their employment contract.

    That being said, the current position on policy regarding this is still rather vague, and sponsors are typically unsure of where the line is drawn when it comes to what they should be reporting regarding workers who work from home. There is a significant difference in reporting and requirements between someone who works remotely for two to three days per week and someone who spends most of their time working remotely.

    UKVI does seem to have the implications that if a person can work from home remotely, then why would they need to be in the UK at all? Although there may be some convincing reasons in certain situations as to why a worker should be in the UK physically.

    In the instance of an IT company, the employer wishing the business and employees to be closer to their customers in the UK is understandable and will also reap the benefits of remote working. However, UK visitor rules do allow for remote working on a limited basis; some visitor categories will be unsuitable due to payment restrictions from sources in the UK.

    A blanket approach to trying and dismissing remote working for workers who are sponsored in the UK is also not achievable. Employers may be confused as to what they should report, what they do not need to report, and the general rules around remote-working sponsored employees.

    What Should Sponsor Licence Holders Report?

    Overview

    While it is difficult to distinguish between what could be classified as occasional flexibility in working and hybrid work, the Home Office does offer revised guidance on this to help employers.

    The Home Office definition is as follows:

    “Hybrid working is defined as an instance where the worker will work remotely on a regular, planned basis from another address or their home; this could include a work hub space, which is not a client site or an address listed on the employer’s licence. This is in addition to regularly attending one or more of the company’s branches, offices, or client sites.”.

    This definition therefore means that a level one or two user does not need to report on sponsor management systems if a worker is working from home, in the office, or if they are visiting a client’s premises daily. Nor does it need to be reported if working from home is ad hoc. Rule changes are only in place should there be a change in the regular working patterns of the sponsored worker.

    Reporting Duties Of Sponsor Employers

    Employers who hold a sponsorship licence will need to report if there are changes in the normal work location of their sponsored worker. This can include the following:

    • If the worker is or is scheduled to be working at a different office, site, or branch of the company that was not previously declared to the Home Office.
    • The worker is, or will be, working remotely from home on a permanent or full-time basis with no orThe justification little requirement to attend a workplace physically.
    • The worker has or will be moving to a working pattern that is considered hybrid.

    Reporting Changes To A Normal Working Location For A Sponsored Worker

    Any changes to a sponsored organisation or any relevant changes to the organisation’s sponsored workers need to be reported to the Home Office through the SMS (Sponsor Management System). A level 1 user will be required to report any changes deemed relevant to migrant workers’ locations of work through the SMS system.

    It is recommended for companies to always ensure they have at least a single level 1 user active to ensure that any required updates are made to the Home Office via SMS in time.

    Duties And Compliance For Sponsors With Remote Workers

    When a sponsor employer has a migrant worker who works remotely or works on client sites, it is pivotal that they implement the relevant HR processes and policies to ensure that Home Office duties and obligations for sponsors are met. This can include monitoring worker attendance.

    The Home Office may also ask for an explanation as to why a migrant worker needs to be in the UK physically if their work is achievable on a remote basis. Justification for this reasoning will depend on the employer and the work. However, some reasons that this may be justifiable can include conducting client visits or time zone working significance.

    What Employers Who Hold Sponsor Licence Do Not Need To Report

    Overview

    Employers who hold a sponsorship licence will not need to report any day-to-day changes in the location of work of their migrant workers. This means that if a worker occasionally works from home or at a different branch site, this does not need to be reported.

    The only instances in which a sponsor employer does need to inform the Home Office of changes will be regarding the regular working patterns of their employees.

    Sponsor Duty Compliance

    Sponsor duties in terms of hybrid and remote working for Skilled Workers can be difficult. However, since sponsored workers would be absent from their normal place of work during the time they spend working from home, either in a permanent remote arrangement or in a hybrid arrangement, it can be tricky for sponsors.

    Employers cannot as easily monitor worker behaviours and progress in remote circumstances, and there could be potential unauthorised absences. It is not uncommon to see some employees working remotely in the UK return to their home countries or travel to a second home location overseas without employer knowledge.

    Sponsors may even tell employers they are still inside the UK, even if they are not.

    However, as a sponsor employer, while hybrid and working arrangements do make things more complex, it is pivotal to ensure that there are appropriate measures in place to monitor employee attendance and absences and stay in compliance with record-keeping and reporting duties.

    Failure to do so can have very severe consequences for the employer, which can be as serious as having their licence revoked. The best thing for employers to do is set out a working policy in written format for hybrid and remote working to clarify how arrangements like this should work.

    Our skilled worker solicitors have helped hundreds of people and businesses with all immigration matters and cases.

    Pros And Cons Of Your Skilled Workers Working Remotely Or Hybrid

    There are two aspects of the pros and cons of sponsored Skilled Workers being hybrid or remote. These aspects include the positive and negative impacts on the employee and the positive and negative impacts on the employer.

    Impact On Employees

    • Being remote or hybrid can impact workers’ health and well-being negatively or positively. Data from 2022 shows that around half of those working from home in some way reported an improvement. However, some impacts vary in terms of socio-demographic characteristics as well as individual and personal factors that have an impact on employee satisfaction. An introverted worker is more likely to find benefits from remote working, whereas an extroverted worker may not benefit as much.
    • Being hybrid or remote can also impact the work-life balance of employees in both negative and positive ways. Data from 2022 showed that over 3/4 of those working from home had the capacity to improve their work-life balance. However, it can also blur the lines between boundaries and increase pressure to always be online. There has also been an increase in overtime going unpaid.
    • A self-report survey saw that 2/3rds of employees working from home were as productive, if not more, than in the workplace when they worked from home. This is subject to differences, however. Younger workers felt less productive, while disabled workers felt more productive.

    Impact On Employers

    • Businesses see improved staff wellbeing as a primary reason to increase remote working. However, reductions in the mental well-being of staff from isolation are also an important challenge. There have been difficulties in collaborating and an increase in the feeling of being disconnected.
    • Between 1/3 and 1/2 of employers see there as being no change in productivity in staff since the rise of home working. Some industries have seen a decrease; however, this is subject to specific industries. Accommodation and food service have seen an increase, whereas manufacturing has seen a decrease.
    • SMS teams and organisation management about monitoring remote workers are key. Those who are on a Skilled Worker visa need to be monitored in their work activity and location to ensure that the employer is compliant with their duties as a sponsor. This is more difficult to do in remote and hybrid settings; however, some programmes and systems can be put into place to allow for more clear management of this.
    • Remote working does allow the labour pool to expand, making jobs more accessible to greater quantities of people regardless of location. This does flatten the curve of skill mismatches in the economy, as workers can match skills to new openings in the market.
    • Remote and hybrid working does open possibilities in regard to company expansion. Enabling and training employees to work in a hybrid or remote setting opens doors to opening spaces in new locations for some industries. While this may not apply to all industries, it is a possibility for some.

    For tailored advice by experts in the field, speak with us today.

    How Can IAS Help?

    Understanding the implications of having a sponsor licence and having employees who work remotely can be complex. Many issues can arise if you are not careful with monitoring remote employees’ activity and meeting your duties as a sponsor.

    To make sure that you have all the measures in place and for a clear understanding of what you need to do to make sure that your remote or hybrid employees are monitored and you are reporting to the Home Office appropriately, speak to an IAS legal adviser.

    Give us a call at +44 (0)333 305 9375, or message us online and we will help you ensure that working with hybrid and remote migrant workers is stress-free.

    We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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