In the run-up to Christmas with the 'will they, won’t they cancel Christmas?' question clouding our thoughts, only the eagle-eyed will have noted a key Government announcement on Christmas Eve; temporary changes to the Health and Care Worker visa mean care workers will be eligible to work in the UK under this visa. A copy of the press release can be found here.
What’s the purpose of this change?
The Government has made it clear that this temporary measure is aimed at recruiting non-UK care workers to fill the gaping hole in staffing in the HSC sector left by Brexit and exacerbated by Covid-19 and the introduction of mandatory vaccinations in the sector. Employees working in the UK under the Health and Care Worker visa, introduced in August 2020, have the following benefits; fast-tracked entry to the UK, reduced visa fees and exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.
What has changed?
Prior to this announcement, to qualify for a Health and Care Worker Visa, workers need to be paid at least £25,600 per year or £10.10 per hour, whichever is higher. If the 'going rate' for the role is higher than these amounts, then the worker will need to be paid that going rate. If a role, however, was included in the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) workers may still qualify for the visa even if they do not reach that salary threshold. The Government intends to include the role of care worker on this SOL so that they are eligible to apply for a Health and Care Worker Visa.
Who will be affected?
Care workers with an annual minimum salary of £20,480 will be entitled to apply for a Home and Care Worker Visa (provided they have the required level of English). This minimum salary level is significant as is likely to catch care workers in receipt of the Real Living Wage and maybe even some earning just below it. This is clearly the Government’s intent given they note that 'thousands of additional care workers could be recruited' following these changes. The following roles are included under this umbrella term of 'care worker'; care assistant, care worker, carer, home care assistant, home carer and support worker (nursing home).
When does this change come into force?
At the time of writing, the Government has given no specific date for this change. In its Christmas Eve announcement, it noted it would come into effect 'early next year'.
How long does it last for?
The Government notes that this 'temporary measure' will be in place for a minimum of 12 months. However, a Health and Care Worker Visa lasts for up to five years once granted to a worker. We currently think that the change to eligibility will last for 12 months from implementation, but visas supplied during that 12 month period will last for the five-year duration (and after this time it may be possible to settle in the UK). However, if we have further or contrary confirmation from the Government, we will update you.
What should employers in the sector do?
- Assess whether there is a current shortage or likely shortage in the short-term future of care workers which could be filled with non-UK workers;
- Calculate whether the roles where there is a shortage carry an annual salary of £20,480 or above;
- If the answer to both the above questions is yes, employers will need to obtain a sponsorship licence – they can register for such a licence prior to the changes being implemented*
- If successful in this application for a licence, employers can then assign a certificate of sponsorship to potential non-UK workers and that worker can then submit their application for a Health and Care Worker visa*
- In addition, employers must understand their duties in relation to any workers employed under a visa and ensure that they have the necessary HR systems and checks in place*
*These processes are lengthy and complex and more detail is beyond the scope of this ebriefing.
If you think you may be able to take advantage of this change to address the staffing needs in your organisation, we would advise you do the following;
- Watch out for implementation dates of this change – we will update our information platforms when the Government announces this date.
- Take note of the steps outlined above and start preparations.
- We are looking to provide a product that will help employers with this process. If you are interested in this, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to note your interest and what stages of the process you would appreciate assistance with.
Thousands of additional care workers could be recruited to boost the adult social care workforce following temporary changes to the health and care visa to make social care workers, care assistants and home care workers eligible for a 12-month period.