Starved of workers following Brexit, and reeling from the cataclysmic effects of the pandemic, it now faces the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
All of this has combined to decimate staffing levels across the industry.
If you’re running a food or hospitality business, you’ll be looking for ways to weather this perfect storm. Bringing in a skilled chef, or other staff, from overseas could be the answer to getting crucial talent for your kitchen.
At Truth Legal, we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of restaurants and hotel looking for legal advice and assistance in sponsoring skilled workers from abroad.
The sponsorship approach is not without its drawbacks – but the benefits it can bring are significant. And it might be the bold move your business needs.
When sponsorship might not be right
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Sponsorship can be expensive. And there will be ongoing requirements to meet throughout your sponsorship, such as reporting to the Home Office. As such, it might not be the right path for all levels of the industry, or for those businesses which cannot commit the resources.
But, that said, it is an investment which can pay off in a number of ways. For example, it may ultimately be cheaper than relying on a steady stream of temporary or agency chefs – which many hotels and restaurants have been forced to do in these difficult times.
The benefits of sponsorship
A smorgasbord of talent
First and foremost, sponsorship allows you to draw on a depth of talent from a much wider field. And with skilled chefs and other hospitality workers in such high demand across the UK – particularly at the higher end of the market in fine dining restaurants and hotel kitchens – this is a critical advantage.
With this greater talent pool comes the opportunity to pinpoint the exact skills that your business needs.
Preserving your working relationship
Sponsorship can also help with another of the main staffing issues facing the industry: retention. The sponsorship system is geared towards keeping your new employee with your business as, generally under the terms of their visa, workers coming to the UK through the program can only work for you as their sponsor.
The different flavours of ‘skilled worker’
You can sponsor chefs at various levels of skill and training (not just head chefs). But you can sponsor a number of other roles too. These still have to be ‘skilled workers’ but the definition was widened a few years ago to include management roles (such as restaurant and bar managers or assistant managers) and skilled roles which help with the sales or development of your business.
Starting the process – sponsoring a chef
There are a lot of matters to consider with sponsorship. You will need to apply for a sponsor licence, and the role(s) which you are looking to fill must also meet a number of specifications.
However, before taking any steps it is best to discuss your situation in full with an immigration law specialist – ideally one who helps businesses on a regular basis and who can therefore assess whether sponsorship could be right for you in the context of your commercial circumstances.
If you choose to go ahead, having expert legal assistance on hand can help you to get the ball rolling and – more importantly – rolling in the right direction.