Immigration rules eased to tackle UK carer shortage

The care sector has faced serious difficulties in recent years. A severe shortage of care workers in the UK has been one of the most critical challenges, impacting providers, service users, and healthcare services at large. To enable employers to meet continued (and growing) demand for services, the UK government has recently relaxed the rules and added more carer roles to the UK Shortage Occupation List. The result is that UK care providers now have the opportunity for recruiting carers from abroad.

How severe is the shortage of care workers in the UK?

In 2021, Skills for Care recorded a shortfall of 105,000 workers and a vacancy rate of 8.2 percent in care. Facing the highest care worker shortage on record, 95% of care providers now say they are finding it difficult to recruit staff. In turn, 81% of care providers report difficulties maintaining their level of service, with the situation described as “grim, difficult and relentless”.

Why is there a shortage of carers in the UK?

While an ageing population ensures demand for adult social care continues to grow, various workforce pressures have left huge shortages in the care labour market. Significant factors include:

• Staff leaving because of the requirement that care workers are vaccinated against COVID-19

• COVID-related increases in absence, including self-isolation, childcare, and staff sickness days

Changes to care worker Shortage Occupation List (SOC)

The good news is that the UK government has recognized the urgent need to fill the gap in care workers. In response, as of February 2022 ‘Care Worker’ jobs now feature on the official Shortage Occupation List. The newly listed roles fall under Standard Occupational Code (SOC) 6145 and include:

• Care assistant

• Care worker

• Carer

• Home care assistant

• Home carer

• Support worker (nursing home)

Before now, such carer roles were not eligible for overseas recruitment as they did not meet the ‘Skilled Worker’ threshold imposed by the post-Brexit points-based system (PBS). Such care roles will continue to count as low-skilled (below RQF 3). However, in light of care worker shortages, these vacancies will be temporarily open to overseas workers via the Health and Care Worker Visa route.

Recruiting carers from abroad: next steps

What this means is your organisation can now (temporarily) advertise care worker positions to workers outside the UK.

Any carers wishing to enter the UK must have a Certificate of Sponsorship from a Home Office-approved Licence holder. Those who secure a visa will be eligible to remain in the UK for up to 5 years. This means if you wish to recruit care workers from abroad, your organisation must secure a Sponsorship Licence in advance.

The current changes to recruiting overseas care workers will be in place until February 2023. As such, care organisations are advised to move fast if they wish to secure a Licence.

Need further advice?

Our Sponsor Licence lawyers are experts in this area and can guide your organisation at every step of its application. To schedule a free, no-obligation chat, leave your details here.

If your business urgently needs to recruit, ask our specialist lawyers about the Sponsor Licence Priority Service. This option speeds up the process of applying for a Sponsorship Licence and allows your business to fill the gaps in employment fast.