Key updates made to the Guidance for Sponsors

The Home Office has recently made some key amendments to the Workers and Temporary Workers: Guidance for Sponsors, which sets out the rules for businesses sponsoring workers from overseas.

The main changes that sponsors should be aware of are in relation to start dates, working hours and pay. We summarise the key points below.

Start dates

When assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a worker, sponsors are required to enter a start date on the certificate. This should be the date you expect the worker to start working for you if their visa application is granted.

Previously, there was little flexibility around start dates and workers were required to commence employment on the date listed on the CoS or within 28 days of this date. However, the guidance has now been updated to provide greater flexibility on start dates for sponsored workers.

An amendment has been made to allow applicants to start work earlier than the start date listed on their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). The guidance now states: “A worker can start working in their sponsored employment as soon as they have permission to enter or stay in the UK, even if this is before the start date recorded on their CoS. You do not have tell us if the worker’s start date has been brought forward after they have been granted permission.”

A concession has also been added to allow sponsors to delay start dates beyond the 28-day period if there is a good reason. Previously, sponsors were required to stop sponsoring the worker and inform the Home Office if the start date was delayed by more than 28 days from the date listed on the CoS.

Acceptable reasons for a delayed start date may include:

  • travel disruption due to a natural disaster, military conflict or pandemic
  • the worker is required to work out a contractual notice period for their previous employer – if the worker is in the UK, their conditions of stay must allow them to do this
  • the worker requires an exit visa from their home country and there have been administrative delays in processing this
  • illness, bereavement or other compelling family or personal circumstances.

Sponsors are no longer required to report a delayed start date to the Home Office where the worker has already been granted permission, as long as it is delayed for no more than 28 days.

Salary information on a defined CoS

Sponsors must apply for a ‘defined’ certificate of sponsorship if the Skilled Worker they wish to sponsor will be making their application for permission (entry clearance) from outside the UK. The salary entered on a defined CoS must be a genuine reflection of what you intend to pay the worker, and must meet all of the salary requirements of the Skilled Worker route.

A note has been added to the ‘Sponsor a Skilled Worker’ guidance to clarify that sponsors must provide information about working hours if applying for a defined CoS, otherwise the application is likely to be rejected.

The note states: “In the ‘Summary of job description’ text box, you must also state the number of hours the successful candidate, or candidates, will work each week. If the working hours will vary, you must give details of what the working pattern will be. This will help us to confirm the stated salary meets the general threshold, going rate and hourly rate requirements. If you fail to give this information, we are likely to reject your application.

If the number of weekly hours is subject to negotiation or final agreement, you should enter the number of hours you would normally expect employees in a similar role to work each week, and enter “to be confirmed” (or a similar phrase) in brackets. You will be able to enter the correct number of hours when you assign the CoS to a worker.”

The Home Office may request further information in relation to a defined CoS application, and will aim to consider the application within 20 working days of receipt of that information.

Unpaid absences

The guidance for sponsors states that sponsored workers can take short periods of unpaid leave but, unless an exception applies, you must normally 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).

However, a new paragraph has been added to the guidance which states that unpaid leave can last longer than 4 weeks in compelling or exceptional circumstances. The guidance now states: “If you believe there are compelling or exceptional circumstances as to why you should not stop sponsoring a worker who has been absent from work without pay for more than 4 weeks (and an exception does not apply), you must report the absence and reasons via the ‘Report migrant activity’ function in the SMS for UKVI to consider. You should be aware that UKVI may cancel the worker’s permission if they are not satisfied there is a valid reason for continuing to sponsor the worker. If this happens, you must stop sponsoring the worker.”

Sponsors should be aware that the 4 weeks do not need to be consecutive.

Salary and allowances

The Skilled Worker guidance for sponsors has also been updated to confirm that only guaranteed basic gross pay should be considered when listing salary on the CoS. Other allowances, pay or benefits will not be taken into account (even if they are guaranteed), such as any of the following:

  • pay which cannot be guaranteed because the nature of the job means that hours fluctuate
  • additional pay such as shift allowance, or overtime or bonus pay, whether or not it is guaranteed
  • employer pension and employer national insurance contributions
  • any allowances, such as accommodation or cost of living allowances
  • in-kind benefits, such as equity shares, health insurance, school or university fees, company cars or food
  • one-off payments, such as ‘golden hellos’
  • any payments relating to immigration costs, such as the application fee or Immigration Health Charge; or
  • payments to cover business expenses, including (but not limited to) travel to and from the applicant’s home country, equipment, clothing, travel or subsistence.

Some transitional provisions are in place for applications for permission to stay (or settlement) made before 1 December 2026.

Support with sponsor compliance

Sponsors are reminded to ensure they are logging into the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) regularly to stay up to date with any important updates such as the above.

If you have any questions about any of the changes to the guidance for sponsors and what they mean for your business, speak to Smith Stone Walters. Our dedicated sponsor licence team are on hand to help you understand your sponsor duties and prepare for any future compliance visit. Contact us today to find out more.

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