Covid and post-Brexit immigration rules serve up a recipe for disaster in the hospitality sector

30 September 2021

From being the centrepiece of England’s post-Covid recovery with ‘eat out to help out’, the hospitality sector is now struggling to rebuild after lockdowns, furlough and rising food prices. At the same time many restaurants, cafes and pubs are coming up against the hard realities of a post-Brexit immigration policy and discovering what it means for their business.

As anticipated in our previous blog, hospitality businesses are encountering problems with recruiting and retaining staff that can scupper their plans and even threaten their existence.  With staff, including chefs and managers, in short-supply, potential hires with permission to work in the UK can afford to be picky which is driving up wages. Unsurprisingly many businesses in the hospitality sector are looking to bring in workers from outside the UK to fill gaps and to keep their businesses going. 
The options to sponsor workers from outside the UK turn on a number of requirements and roles must satisfy minimum skill and salary requirements in order for them to be sponsored under the Skilled Worker category. 
At present the UK’s immigration system does not provide routes for bar staff, kitchen porters and waitresses/waiters to obtain work visas, as these roles fall below the minimum skill requirement - fortunately chefs and bar managers do satisfy the minimum skill requirement. 
Often the biggest hurdle to sponsoring a worker is the minimum salary requirement. On the face of it the going-rate salary requirement for chefs and restaurant managers under the Immigration Rules may appear to be competitive, at £18,900 and £18,400 respectively. However, in order for applicants to score the required points to obtain a Skilled Worker visa, in most instances their salaries must be at least the general £25,600 amount and above £10.10 an hour. 
The costs to obtain a sponsor licence and thereafter for sponsored workers to apply for visas are also be prohibitive. Added to this is the risk of further problems down the road; UKVI typically takes a sceptical view of those operating in the hospitality sector as the sector is generally considered by UKVI as posing a higher risk to immigration control – this leads to an increased chance of audits and in turn enforcement action against sponsors who fall short on the sponsor duties that they assume. 
Inevitably the increasing costs for the hospitality sector will be passed on to consumers and we can all expect the cost of eating out to become a more expensive treat than it has been previously.  Nevertheless when it comes to taking another financial hit and sponsoring workers, for many hospitality businesses it may be a question of do or die.
Our department has lots of experience working with those in the hospitality sector to obtain sponsor licences, sponsor workers and to deal with UKVI compliance visits and enforcement action. Please contact a member of the immigration team if you require any assistance.


Robert Houchill is a Senior Associate in the Immigration team, and has extensive experience of assisting individuals wishing to relocate to the UK with their immigration and nationality matters. His experience covers all kinds of immigration and nationality applications but with a particular emphasis on corporate immigration matters, helping high net worth individuals and partners of British citizens or those with indefinite leave to remain.


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