How to Create a Global Workforce Team in the UK?

The international workforce is no longer a luxury reserved for large multinational corporations. Over half of senior business managers rely on skilled workers to fill shortages and promote the exchange of skills and expertise.

It is not a secret that UK immigration policy has been consistently geared at reducing legal migration. Never-ending increases in immigration and visa fees, and raising the minimum salary threshold and required pay rate for professional jobs do not add to a hospitable profile. Yet, for better or worse, these efforts have had only marginal success and most businesses continue to engage talent from across the world.

Challenges: Sponsor a Skilled Worker

How difficult it is to sponsor a skilled worker?

There are only three basic requirements:

  1. The job has to be recognised as a skilled occupation
  2. The worker should be paid above the prescribed threshold
  3. The worker has to have reasonable knowledge of English (B1 level in speaking, listening, reading, and writing) and either pass a prescribed test or have other acceptable evidence of sufficient knowledge of the language

There may be an additional requirement for a criminal record certificate mainly for health care workers and teachers.

A sponsor licence allows the employer to sponsor as many workers as they need provided the above requirements are met.

For most, but not all employers, salary requirements are the harshest part of the rules since the salary prescribed by the immigration rules may be well above the market rate or what the employer is prepared to pay.

Income Threshold for Sponsored Skilled Workers

Following the introduction of the new SOC 2020 code and higher income threshold in April 2024, there are different minimum pay thresholds for skilled workers who joined the club under the rules before April 2024 and newcomers or those who until now had a different type of visa.

Those who held a skilled worker visa under the immigration rules in place before 4 April 2024 can change employment or extend their leave to remain with the current employer relying on transitional arrangements and a lower pay threshold than applies for newcomers.

For example, before 4 April, a plumber or gas engineer could be sponsored for an annual salary of £26,700. If the worker has to extend the visa after 4 April 2024, the required minimum pay will be £29,000 (the general minimum pay threshold in transitional arrangements, which exceeds the transitional going rate of £28,800 under SOC 2020 code 5315 in transitional rules). A person who has not held a skilled worker visa before will have to be paid a minimum salary of £38,700.

Where the employer is prepared to pay above the required minimum, the transitional arrangements will not be of much relevance. Where the employer is struggling to meet the salary requirement for the job, a practical solution may be hiring an employee who has already been sponsored on a skilled worker route, even if by another sponsor.

Changing Employment

Changing employment is permitted but not encouraged by the immigration rules.

The worker is free to give notice to the current employer and apply to change the visa with a view to working for a new sponsor. The downside of this move is that the visa fee and the immigration health surcharge fees have to be paid again, even if there is a considerable overlap with the payments.

Employers who pay the visa and immigration health surcharge fees for their employees often include in the employment contract provisions for repayment of these expenses if the employee decides to leave before the end of the sponsorship agreement.

Global business mobility is an option open to multinational companies who have a qualifying link with an overseas business and need management or senior specialists from their overseas branch or subsidiary to work in the UK for short periods of time. The general minimum pay threshold for senior and specialist staff under the Global Business Mobility route is £48,500. There is no English language requirement for this route.

Service supplier is another route within the Global Business Mobility scheme which allows UK-based businesses to bring over contractors from outside the UK. This option is available if your business has a contract for the supply of services with an overseas business or an independent professional based overseas. The contract cannot be for the benefit of a third party or a client of the UK-based business.

The contract must be covered by one of the UK’s international trade agreements, such as the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement or GATS. The sponsored occupation has to meet the skills requirement, but the salary threshold does not apply as the UK sponsor does not act as the employer.

Although the Service Supplier route caters to quite specific scenarios, the obvious benefit is the flexibility of remuneration for the workers in the UK.

In summary, creating a global workforce is still manageable. All you need is perceptive and reliable legal advice.

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