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Closed petition Allow Healthcare Workers on skilled worker visas to work for any employer

The Government should allow Healthcare Workers who came to the UK on a Skilled Work or Tier 2 visa to change employers and work for any employer, irrespective of whether they have a sponsorship licence, without needing to update their visa.

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Some healthcare workers are exploited by employers, or denied their rights to pay and safe working conditions, or threatened with visa sponsorship withdrawal when they raise concerns.

These kind of conditions are resulting in workers suffering from mental health conditions, and treatment by some employers can amount to modern slavery, and negatively affect service delivery.

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Government responded

This response was given on 31 August 2023

Skilled Workers can already change employers as long as they apply to do so. We have no plans to change this. Removing employer sponsorship could worsen modern slavery risks, not reduce them.

Read the response in full

The Health and Care visa, introduced by the Government in August 2020, is part of the Skilled Worker route and delivers the Government’s commitment to introduce a visa route which makes it quicker, easier and significantly cheaper for eligible people working in health and social care to come to the UK with their families. to fill specific vacancies. Skilled Workers have the freedom to apply to work for another sponsor or even switch into another route if they are eligible to do so.

The sponsorship system ensures employers fulfil specific duties to confirm those who apply for permission to work in the UK are eligible and will comply with the conditions of their visa. Sponsors are also subject to checks, ensuring they themselves are genuine, able to offer the correct salary and do not leave workers open to exploitation. Businesses must comply with these duties and demonstrate a verifiable track record of operating lawfully in the UK, both within the immigration system and the wider employer regulatory regime. This approach ensures the integrity of the immigration system and provides important safeguards to those coming to work here, including protections from exploitation that could arise during the period of employment.

The Government works closely with enforcement bodies, including the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), to combat Modern Slavery. Any information regarding allegations of Modern Slavery practices should be referred to the GLAA here: www.gla.gov.uk/report-issues/.   

Or, if you have encountered somebody who is the victim of modern slavery, you can report it here: www.modernslavery.gov.uk/start.  

We inspect sponsors to check compliance with our requirements. Onsite visits are frequently done alongside the GLAA, whose remit is focused on employee welfare. Should an employer be found to be in breach of these requirements we will take action and can remove their ability to recruit from overseas.     

International candidate guidance has been published by the Department of Health and Social Care as part of wider efforts to address concerns about exploitative recruitment and employment practices, as well as to ensure prospective international recruits are well informed and understand the processes of recruitment into a UK health or social care job. It includes information on:

- how to avoid scams;
- working rights and standards;
- what to consider when deciding whether to take a health or care job in the UK;
- where to go for further guidance, support or help in the UK.

The guidance is published alongside an easy read leaflet which aims to engage international candidates, summarise the key messages and signpost to detailed guidance for more information.

- The Code of Practice for International Recruitment (www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-the-international-recruitment-of-health-and-social-care-personnel/code-of-practice-for-the-international-recruitment-of-health-and-social-care-personnel-in-england) sets out guiding principles and best practice benchmarks that providers and agencies should follow to ensure ethical international recruitment practices.

- The Code includes stronger guidance on the standards and information international recruits should expect to see when they agree to take a job in the UK, including:

• Guidance to ensure consistency and fairness in employment contracts and setting clear principles on the use of repayment clauses;

• Being explicit that it is illegal for UK-based agencies to charge fees for job finding services;

• Setting out the information which potential recruits should be given to enable an informed decision on whether to accept a health or social care job in the UK.

- The Code also sets out how anyone can escalate concerns if they are, or someone they know is, experiencing exploitative recruitment or employment practices to ensure they can be appropriately investigated.

- The Ethical Recruiters List (www.nhsemployers.org/articles/ethical-recruiters-list) is a list of all agencies and other recruiting organisations who have signed up to adhering to the Code of Practice. Although this list is managed by NHS Employers, it applies to both health and social care organisations in the public and independent sector.

- If an agency is on the Ethical Recruiters List and breaches the Code, they should be reported to NHS Employers to investigate. If the organisation is found in breach of the Code, it will be removed from the list.

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