Last month, the Home Office updated the Sponsor Guidance to include a new reporting duty for sponsors in relation to hybrid working patterns. In recognition of new post-pandemic work practices, the Home Office introduced a requirement to report if sponsored workers had switched or would be subject to a hybrid working policy.
There is no need for hybrid working to have been formally incorporated into an employee’s assignment agreement or employment contract, or to have agreed set days in the office / at home to trigger a reporting action. It is sufficient that the sponsored employee is subject to hybrid working and that it is a permanent change to their work pattern.
The new guidance states the following:
C.1.19. You must tell us if a sponsored worker’s normal work location (as recorded on their CoS) changes. This includes where:
the worker is, or will be, working at a different site, branch or office of your organisation, or a different client’s site, not previously declared to us
the worker is, or will be, working remotely from home on a permanent or full-time basis (with little or no requirement to physically attend a workplace)
the worker has moved, or will be moving, to a hybrid working pattern
C1.20. A “hybrid working pattern” is where the worker will work remotely on a regular and planned basis from their home or another address, such as a work hub space, that is not a client site or an address listed on your licence, in addition to regularly attending one or more of your offices or branches, or a client site.
C1.21. You do not need to report day-to-day changes in work location (for example, if a worker occasionally works at a different branch or site, or from home). You need only tell us about changes to their regular working patterns.
The guidance creates a requirement to file SMS reports for employees, noting the new hybrid arrangement and confirming the work from home location. In practice, many clients who sponsor large numbers of employees have been unsure how to best implement the new policy given the sheer numbers and burden it places on them.
Following representations from clients and immigration providers, the Home Office seem set to revise the policy to avoid putting undue pressure on employers and staff in processing requests.
Instead, the Home Office will ask that ‘employers retain the relevant evidence should a compliance visit occur and be able to demonstrate that they are maintaining their sponsor duties, such as monitoring attendance, for the worker(s) in question’. The focus has therefore shifted from filing SMS reports to employers being able to demonstrate they have sufficient processes in place to monitor their sponsored workers whilst hybrid working.
A revised policy wording is expected in due course. In the meantime, employers should continue to review their internal processes to ensure they have robust procedures in place for monitoring their sponsored work force.