Sponsoring a Health and Care
Worker: Salary FAQs

The UK’s adult social care sector is currently operating under unprecedented pressure, as demand for services continues to rise whilst employers simultaneously struggle to attract and retain the workers they need from within the resident labour market.

New immigration rules implemented after Brexit mean that care homes can no longer freely recruit care workers from the EU. Instead, overseas nationals wishing to undertake care work in the UK must secure sponsorship from an approved employer and apply for a Health and Care Worker visa.

Smith Stone Walters has worked with a number of employers in the care sector this year, to help them secure sponsor approval and recruit care workers from overseas. In our previous articles, we have explored how to apply for a sponsor licence, which care roles are eligible for sponsorship and how much it costs to sponsor a care worker from overseas.

Another area we are often asked about is the salary requirements for sponsored care workers. This is a key compliance area that the Home Office will focus on when conducting any pre-licence checks or during a sponsor compliance audit. As a licensed sponsor, the Home Office will continually monitor your ability and willingness to comply with your sponsorship duties. This includes making regular checks with HMRC to ensure you are paying your sponsored workers appropriately.

With this in mind, it is important for employers to be aware of what is and isn’t permitted when it comes to remuneration of sponsored care workers. We answer some of the most frequently asked questions below.

What are the salary requirements for sponsored care workers?

The Health and Care Worker visa forms part of the Skilled Worker route. Usually, Skilled Workers would need to be paid at least £25,600 or the ‘going rate’ for their occupation, whichever is highest. However, care workers and home carers are currently on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) which means they can qualify for a visa at a lower salary threshold.

This means that the salary requirement for care workers applying for a Health and Care Worker visa is a minimum of £20,480 or £10.10 per hour, whichever is higher.

What counts towards salary?

When it comes to assessing salary, the Home Office will only take into account guaranteed basic gross pay (before income tax and including employee pension and national insurance contributions). Other allowances, pay or benefits such as accommodation, overtime or bonus pay will not be taken into account.

How many hours per week does the salary threshold relate to?

Any care workers you sponsor will need to be paid at least £20,480 per year basic salary, regardless of the number of hours worked. This works out at £10.10 per hour for a 39-hour week. Other working patterns (such as part-time) are possible, as long as both salary requirements are met.

Those working fewer than 39 hours per week must still paid at least £20,480 per year. This would mean they need to be paid more than £10.10 per hour in this scenario. For example, you could sponsor a worker for a 37- hour week as long as you are paying at least £10.64 per hour (£20,480 ÷ 52 weeks ÷ 37 hours).

If we pay a lower hourly rate, can more hours be offered (e.g. £9.50 per hour/45 hours per week = £22,230)?

No, the basic pay must be at least the higher of £20,480 per year or £10.10 per hour. If more than 39 hours are offered, £10.10 per hour will be the critical factor. If less than 39 hours per week, £20,480 will be the critical factor.

Are there different rules for overtime hours?

No. The £10.10 per hour minimum applies to all hours the employee is working for you. You could not, for example, pay a care worker £10.10 per hour for a 39 hour week and then pay them National Minimum Wage (£9.50) for overtime hours. It would be highly unusual for an overtime rate to be less than the basic pay.

Can a sponsored worker take unpaid leave?

Sponsored workers can take short periods of unpaid leave, but unless an exception applies, you must stop sponsoring a worker who is absent from work without pay for more than 4 weeks in total in any calendar year (1 January to 31 December). When calculating whether the worker has been absent without pay for more than 4 weeks, the following types of absence are disregarded and do not count towards the 4 weeks:

  • Statutory maternity, paternity, parental, shared parental or adoption leave
  • Sick leave
  • Assisting with a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis, provided you agreed to the absence for that purpose
  • Taking part in legally organised industrial action.

What happens if a temporary reduction in pay brings a worker below the salary threshold?

You can temporarily reduce the salary of a care worker you are sponsoring if the reduction coincides with one of the absences listed above – for example, if you are paying them a reduced salary, or they are receiving statutory payments only, while they are on maternity leave or sick leave.

If you wish to reduce the salary in any other circumstances (either on a temporary or permanent basis), you must first check if you will need to assign them a new CoS, and if the worker will need to make a new application for entry clearance or permission to stay, before you can reduce their salary.

Can a care worker be sponsored on a zero hour or agency contract of employment?

Workers cannot be sponsored on zero hour contracts. If they are recruited through an agency, the end client company will need to act as the sponsor.

What should I do if my sponsored worker’s salary changes?

Sponsors are required to notify the Home Office of any significant changes to their sponsored workers’ circumstances, including if their salary changes. This must be reported using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) within 10 working days.

You must stop sponsoring the worker if their revised salary no longer meets any salary, hourly or going rate requirement for the job or the route on which they are being sponsored.

Support with sponsor compliance

More information about salary requirements can be found in the Home Office guidance for sponsors.

If your care home is looking to recruit skilled workers from overseas, Smith Stone Walters can help. We have worked with many employers in the adult social care sector to help them secure sponsor approval and obtain Health and Care Worker visas for their new hires.

To find out more about partnering with us, please contact us today.

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