Domestic Staff: Employing Foreign Nationals In The U.K

Employing foreign staff in a domestic household is a common practice in the UK. There are many advantages to hiring foreign workers in a UK household if they come with a wealth of skills and knowledge of a second or sometimes third language. According to a recent study by the University of Oxford ‘cleaning and household managers’ and ‘food preparation’ among two of the largest sectors employing migrants in the UK. If you haven’t thought about hiring foreign staff before it might be wise to consider these points beforehand…

Sponsorship licences
Those who regularly hire domestic staff will be aware of the employment law needed but they might not be aware of what’s needed for overseas workers. Work permits for non-EEA nationals in the UK must be endorsed by an establishment with a sponsorship licence. It’s possible to apply for either a sponsorship licence for temporary workers or full time depending on the needs of the institution. A sponsorship licence gives an establishment a wider talent pool when trying to fill niche roles and allows you to attract global talent for your job opening.

Visa differences
AU pairs are vastly different immigration requirements than a full-time foreign nanny and the work allowance for international students is different again. A foreign AU pair may legally work for you if they are a national from an EEA country or if they are in the country on a tier-5 Youth Mobility visa. A full-time domestic employee from a non-EEA country will need the right to work in the UK whether that’s through your sponsorship or another avenue e.g. they are here on a family visa. Whereas people in the country on student visas may only work a certain number of hours (usually 20).

Right to work
If a person is hiring a foreign worker it’s important to check if they have the right to work and for how long they have the right to work. The penalties for employing illegal immigrants in the UK is an unlimited fine and up to 5 years in jail. It’s possible to check whether or not someone has the right to work on the Home Office website and it can save you a lot of grief in the long run.

Employing EU nationals
At the moment, the UK is still in the EU which means it’s possible to employ EU nationals in the country without worrying about visa issues as free movement of labour is not scheduled to stop until 2019. However recent data leaked from the Home Office has hinted that ‘low-skilled’ EU migrants will not be granted the same avenue to residency as ‘high-skilled’ workers. Although there is no confirmation of what will be classed as ‘high-skilled’ and ‘low-skilled’ we may be able to look at the Occupational Shortage List for the UK as a hint for what sort of jobs the government will actively attempt to retain.

Written by Katie Beech at the Immigration Advice Service for more information contact

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