Do you love a good curry? Curry houses are a stalwart British institution and for most people, the hotter, spicier and more authentic the curry, the better. But be warned; thanks to the current British government’s draconian immigration policy, curry houses and other SMEs who rely on migrant workers to thrive are struggling to stay afloat.
For example, the Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per worker, per year is crippling some restaurants. Cyrus Todiwala, a celebrity chef and owner of the award-winning Cafe Spice Namaste restaurant in London, told The Independent that this charge, designed to restrict immigration, will mean smaller businesses cannot compete with larger chain restaurants who can afford to pay higher wages. This will force prices up, he said. It could also have the effect of driving down quality, as businesses cut costs in order to cover the harsh costs of employing talent from outside the EEA.
The other way curry houses are being affected is by rampant, unannounced visits from UK Visas and Immigration officials. In September 2017, the industry’s largest trading body wrote to Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis to complain about the increase in Home Office raids on curry houses across the UK.
Oli Khan, the celebrity chef and secretary general of the Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA), told The Guardian: “We have [faced] a lot of hurdles, not least uncertainty over what Brexit may mean, and now all of a sudden there is more pressure. In the past year, it was quite quiet but now [the raids] have started again and it is getting tough for a lot of restaurants. This is a multibillion-pound industry, so we are hoping that the government can help us, at least in the short term. They are spending more money to get rid of people that could be earned by the taxpayer if people were allowed to get their affairs in order. People could be given short-term stays, for example, rather than money being spent to send them away.”
The importance of being prepared for the UKVI Sponsor Licence compliance inspection cannot be overstated. UKVI has increased the frequency of compliance audits of sponsor licence holders, not just on curry houses, but all types of businesses. Many of these audits are unannounced, and businesses employing skilled foreign workers are seeing direct impacts.
Failure to fully comply with all UKVI’s Guidance for Sponsors leads to suspensions, revocations, fines, damaging records, loss of skilled foreign workers, and more. However, adequate preparation for a compliance inspection will ensure that your Sponsor Licence and related business activities are protected.
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Keep all of your records well organised and easy to find. Make sure important documents such as a copy of the CoS, passport, and biometric residence permit (BRP) are at the front of each employee’s file. Make sure you have complied with the Sponsor Guidance (SG) in relation to keeping migrant workers contact details up to date. It is also imperative that you keep records for the required amount of time.
Always conduct a full RLMT for each open position unless the position is exempt – check Shortage Occupations on the gov.uk site to see if the position you are filling is an in-demand occupation and therefore exempt from the RLMT. You must comply with proper advertising requirements in the UK and ensure the advertisements run for a minimum of 28 days. It is also vital to ensure careful record keeping of any applicants and reasons they were unsuitable for the position.
Ensure that Right to Work checks are conducted for all employees including all sponsored worker recruited before the start of the employment. It is notable and in order to avoid allegations of discrimination, Right to Work checks should be conducted on all employees. The right to work is the process of checking that each foreign worker can work in the UK legally. Keep clear records of all documents supporting this in each sponsored employee’s file.
Your HR department must monitor attendance and contact information for every sponsored employee (foreign worker). Any changes or discrepancies must be reported via the Sponsor Management System (SMS) promptly. HR must also keep track of expiry dates for visas and ensure that sponsored employees do not continue to work beyond their visa’s expiry dates.
Check that the SMS accurately records your organisation’s representatives and level of access. Pertinent changes in the organisation must be reported on this system promptly. One way to ensure your SMS is always compliant and up-to-date is to instruct an immigration lawyer to manage it on your behalf.
Ensure all sponsored employees receive a salary within the general guidelines set for sponsored employees, and the specific agreement made with each sponsored employee. Paying salary in cash to sponsored workers is not an acceptable practice; it is far safer to pay your employee’s salary so accurate records can be referred to such as by bank transfer into their bank account.
It’s good practice for sponsor licence holders to conduct mock audits. These are trials run in-house to ensure that every aspect of the organisation is fully compliant with current regulations. Practising mock Sponsor Licence audits also allows for all relevant staff members and sponsored employees to know what to expect from an inspection, and to be prepared to professionally answer any questions in a compliant manner.
Mock audits will also highlight any weaknesses in your HR policies and procedures, allowing you to quickly rectify them before a UKVI compliance inspection occurs.
A Y & J Solicitors is dedicated to ensuring the ongoing success of sponsor licence holders. We help organisations with all aspects of sponsorship including applications, mock audits, employee training, and appeals of suspensions and revocations. We take the time to learn about our clients’ businesses to ensure we are providing the information and advice they need to remain fully compliant.
Disclaimer: No material/information provided on this website should be construed as legal advice. Readers should seek an appropriate professional advice for their immigration matters.