ArticleA major care home loses sponsor licence due to compliance issue

In a significant decision by the High Court in Prestwick Care Ltd & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2023] EWHC 3193 (Admin), a major care home operator in the North East has lost its ability to sponsor overseas workers following a series of compliance failures. This ruling serves as a stern reminder of the importance of adhering to sponsor licence regulations and the potential ramifications of non-compliance.

Background of the case:

Prestwick Care Ltd, which employed 219 Skilled Workers under the Health and Care visa scheme, faced a Home Office compliance visit in October 2022. The subsequent findings led to the revocation of their sponsor licence in February 2023. This case highlights the criticality of sponsor licence holders fulfilling their duties, including reporting events, keeping accurate records, and adhering to UK law and sponsor guidance. Below are the key compliance failures and consequences:

  1. Genuine vacancy issues: The Home Office found discrepancies between job duties performed by Senior Care Assistants and those outlined in their Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS). This failure to meet the genuine vacancy requirement is a serious breach, leading to mandatory revocation.
  2. Salary discrepancies: Instances of employees being paid salaries different from those stated on their CoS were identified. Such discrepancies, unless properly notified to the Home Office, constitute another ground for mandatory revocation.
  3. Non-compliance with UK employment law: The care home operator failed to comply with UK employment law regarding sick pay. Such non-compliance, particularly with National Minimum Wage Regulations, typically results in sponsor licence revocation.
  4. Illegal recoupment of Costs: The Home Office discovered that the care home operator had been unlawfully recouping the immigration skills charge from its sponsored workers. While not a mandatory ground for revocation, such actions usually lead to the loss of the licence.s
  5. Ineffective monitoring and poor record keeping: The operator failed to monitor the visa expiry dates of its employees effectively and had inaccurate address records for several sponsored workers. Effective right-to-work checks and accurate record-keeping are crucial responsibilities of sponsor licence holders.

The High Court’s decision underscores the Home Office’s rigorous approach to sponsor licence compliance. The wider implications of revoking such a large operator’s licence, including the potential impact on local healthcare services and residents, were deemed secondary to the necessity of upholding immigration rules.

This judgment serves as a cautionary tale for other sponsor licence holders. It highlights the need for rigorous adherence to Home Office guidelines and the potential consequences of failure. Organisations are advised to conduct regular internal audits and, if necessary, seek legal advice to ensure compliance with their sponsorship duties.

For sponsors, this case exemplifies the importance of trust in the sponsorship system. Minor breaches, when viewed collectively, can indicate a broader pattern of non-compliance, leading to severe consequences. It’s crucial for sponsors to maintain a meticulous approach to their duties and responsibilities.

This ruling is a stark reminder that, despite the recent downturn in Home Office compliance visits, the standards for sponsor licence holders remain stringent. It underscores the need for continuous vigilance and adherence to the prescribed guidelines to avoid similar repercussions.

For businesses and organisations employing foreign workers under the sponsorship system, this case is a wake-up call. It emphasises the necessity of understanding and implementing the complexities of immigration and employment law and the importance of accurate and thorough record-keeping.

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