Warning for the care sector as immigration rockets

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Leading Multi-Service Law firm and HR business, Loch Associates Group, has seen Care sector clients needing workplace immigration support double this year, with companies being forced to look overseas due to a shortage of suitable candidates in the UK.

Loch Associates Group, which helps clients in all sectors successfully apply for sponsorship licences and migrant worker visas, noted a growing number of business owners are now conscious of the need for overseas recruitment as access to local talent has declined.

Joe Milner, Partner and Solicitor Advocate of Loch Associates Group, said: “Whilst tensions rise in the UK Government around migrants and migrant workers, there is limited Government direction on how the care sector can tackle the shortage in available staff here in the UK. Regardless of this, we anticipate continuing to see an increase in not only the care sector, but all sectors turning to migrant recruitment.”

Milner warned that businesses are losing out due to visa limitations, with many companies being unprepared.  “A lot of employers are not aware of the preparation time required before they can hire potential talent abroad. This has meant that overseas workers are being snapped up by businesses who already have their sponsorship licence – whilst those only just discovering the need for it are missing out. Once you have been awarded a sponsorship license, it remains in place for four years, enabling employers to manage their recruitment process abroad as and when required,” said Milner.

Care sector businesses, which have relied heavily on migrant workers, are experiencing difficulties securing new and experienced staff from outside the UK due to post-Brexit restrictions and are facing strong competition from companies based in London that can offer higher salaries and benefits.

Milner commented: “The care sector has always been a key area for migrant workers, pre- and post-Brexit – and certainly post-COVID as well. However, the application process needs to be started well in advance, if employers want to ensure they can guarantee long-term success with their recruitment.”

Businesses applying for workplace immigration will find the process to be a front-loaded exercise. It can take anywhere between six to twelve weeks for a sponsorship licence to be approved, due to current government backlogs for immigration applications. This makes it vital for business owners to have a long-term strategy for whether migrant workers will be needed in the future and – if so – apply for their licence sooner rather than later.

Milner added: “Typically, when a business approaches us to help with their workplace immigration strategy, it is during the final round of their interview stage, when they are ready to make an offer – but this can often be a more difficult process than they might have envisioned. They will need to complete a sponsorship license application and obtain a skilled worker visa. Another factor is helping the individuals and potentially their families enter the UK as well.”

Last year, 17% of the social care workforce identified as Non-British,1 with 10% from countries outside of the EU. The percentage of new starters arriving in the UK to work within the adult social care sector increased from 4% to 11% between 2021 and 2022, highlighting a dramatic increase in reliance on Non-British workers to plug the care recruitment gap.

Equally, 16.5% of the NHS workforce was comprised of Non-British staff members in 2022,2 with 40% of all new nurses and health visitor joiners being from outside of the EU. To help fast-track overseas hiring, the UK government pledged an additional £15 million in funding towards the Health and Care Worker Visa3 in early 2023. This promised reduced application fees, certain exemptions, and a dedicated processing department. However, recruitment vacancy rates within the health and care sectors have not yet shown signs of shrinking.

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