Can Sponsored Workers Have a Second Job?

    Sponsored worker second employment


    In light of the ongoing cost of living crisis, many workers may be looking for additional sources of income. For sponsored migrant workers, however, it may not be as straightforward as simply finding a second job. The worker has to ensure that their visa conditions allow them to take on more work, and their employer has to ensure they’re complying with their immigration obligations when hiring the individual.

    The following guide is for UK employers looking to recruit migrants already working in sponsored job roles, explaining the rules on sponsored worker second employment. We also examine this issue from the perspective of the primary employer and sponsor, from what duties they have to report a sponsored worker for having a second job in breach of their visa conditions to what steps can be taken by the employer to stop a sponsored worker from taking on a second job.

    Is sponsored worker second employment permitted?

    When a sponsored worker is granted a visa by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), their grant of leave will be subject to various conditions, including restrictions relating to other work. Depending on the type of visa the worker has, they may be permitted to take what is referred to as either additional employment, supplementary employment or secondary employment with a second Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).

    Visa worker additional employment rules

    Under the Immigration Rules, additional employment is for sponsored Scale-up Workers only, where a person granted permission on this route can take any type of employment, including self-employment or voluntary work, in addition to the work for which they are being sponsored in the UK. The only restriction to this additional employment rule is that they will not be permitted to work as either a professional sportsperson or sports coach.

    Visa worker supplementary employment rules

    In contrast, other types of sponsored workers may only take additional paid employment, referred to as supplementary employment, if they are continuing to work in their sponsored job role ‘and’ this additional employment meets the following conditions:

    • it is both in the same profession and at the same professional level as the role for which their CoS was assigned, or it is a job in a shortage occupation under the rules
    • it is for no more than 20 hours a week, and
    • it takes place outside of the normal working hours for their primary job role.

    However, not all other sponsored workers are permitted to take supplementary employment, where both the visa-holder and supplementary employer must ensure that they understand who can and cannot take this type of employment and, where it is permissible, what the conditions of that employment are. Specifically, a sponsored migrant worker can take supplementary employment only if they have been granted entry clearance or permission to stay in the UK on any one of the following work routes:

    • the Skilled Worker route
    • the Intra-Company routes in place prior to 11 April 2022
    • the GBM Senior or Specialist Worker route, but only under the rules relating to transitional arrangements for these workers
    • the T2 Minister of Religion route
    • the International Sportsperson route
    • the Creative Worker route
    • the Government Authorised Exchange route
    • the International Agreement route, but only if the worker has been granted leave as an employee of an overseas government or international organisation
    • the Religious Worker route.

    In circumstances where supplementary employment is allowed, this does not have to be with a licensed sponsor. Further, provided any second job meets the qualifying conditions for supplementary employment, sponsored workers do not need to notify UKVI of this.

    However, if a migrant worker undertakes extra paid work that does not meet the necessary criteria, and they have not been granted permission by UKVI to allow them to take such work, they will be in breach of their conditions of stay. Equally, any employer hiring that worker will be doing so illegally. As such, a sponsored worker should always advise their new employer that their employment is supplementary to the work that they are already being sponsored to do, so that their new employer can make the necessary checks under the prevention of illegal working regime, otherwise both risk serious consequences.

    Visa worker secondary employment rules

    When it comes to secondary employment, a worker sponsored on any one of the Worker routes, other than Senior or Specialist Workers, may be allowed to take a second job which does not meet the supplementary employment criteria described above. This is referred to as secondary employment and is distinct from supplementary employment. However, it requires a second CoS to be assigned to the migrant worker by their secondary employer. In this way, the worker can apply for a variation of their visa conditions that will allow them to undertake the secondary employment, in addition to their main employment.

    To be eligible to apply for secondary employment, before being assigned a second CoS, the sponsored worker must have used their first certificate in a successful application for leave on one of the Worker routes ‘and’ have started the employment for which that certificate was assigned. It also follows that any secondary employment must be with a licensed sponsor, where the worker must meet the criteria relevant to the sponsored route.

    Are sponsored care workers allowed a second job?

    Similar supplementary employment rules apply to those working under a Health and Care visa as those for other types of Skilled Workers, with one important exception.

    In February 2023, the government announced a temporary change to the supplementary work rules for sponsored workers on the Health and Care route. Under the revised rules, these types of workers are currently allowed to work more than 20 hours per week for an additional employer without having to notify UKVI or update their visa, as long as any extra hours worked beyond the 20 hours are in an eligible Health and Care visa role.

    The Health and Care visa category is effectively a sub-category of the Skilled Worker route, but specifically applies to medical professionals undertaking an eligible job with either the NHS, an NHS supplier or within the adult social care sector. This includes, for example, qualified doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, dentists, pharmacists and other health professionals, such as social workers or therapists, as well as adult social care professionals.

    The new rule essentially means that if a worker already holds a Health and Care visa, they will not need to apply to vary their visa conditions or otherwise notify the Home Office. The guidance indicated that from 27 August 2023 the 20-hour cap exemption will end, where all Skilled Workers, including Health and Care Workers, will only be able to do up to 20 hours of supplementary work in the same occupation code. No further guidance has been issued to confirm this. If the rules do change, to avoid the need to vary their visa, a second job would have to be both in same type of role and at the same level as their main job, or in a shortage occupation. Equally, in either case, these visa-holders will only be able to work up to 20 hours extra per week in a second job.

    Is voluntary work permitted for sponsored workers?

    Those sponsored on the Worker routes are permitted to undertake voluntary work in addition to the work for which their CoS was assigned, such as volunteering for a charitable organisation without any contractual obligation. However, no payment or other form of remuneration for this type of work must be received, other than reasonable expenses.

    Importantly, Temporary Workers, other than Scale-up Workers, are not permitted under the Immigration Rules to do voluntary work, unless they are in the UK on the Charity Worker route, or on the Government Authorised Exchange route and volunteering is recorded on their CoS, in which case they may undertake that voluntary work only.

    Consequences of unauthorised additional employment

    The consequences of unauthorised secondary employment can be very serious, both for the migrant worker and for the secondary employer. For the worker, by taking on a second job prohibited by their conditions of stay, this will put them in breach of their visa conditions. This could potentially lead to their visa being cancelled and them losing their legal immigration status, the net effect being not only the loss of both job roles, but also potentially the loss of their liberty, where illegal working is a criminal offence for which an individual can be sent to prison. The worker is also ultimately at risk of being deported.

    Equally, for an employer found guilty of intentionally employing an illegal worker, they too could face a term of imprisonment, as well as a civil penalty of up to £20,000, even if they were not necessarily aware of the prohibitions against secondary employment. The employer will also be at risk of having any sponsor licence suspended, downgraded or revoked, even if they have not assigned a migrant worker an CoS for any secondary employment, potentially resulting in the loss of their entire sponsored migrant workforce.

    Importantly, where permission is required for a sponsored worker to undertake a second job in the UK, they will be able to carry on working in their primary role while awaiting a decision from the Home Office, but they must not start any secondary employment before they have been granted permission from UKVI to vary their conditions of stay.

    Consequences of failing to report unauthorised employment

    Any employer sponsoring a migrant worker is under a duty to report certain migrant activities to UKVI but, when it comes to the duty on a primary employer to report a sponsored worker for having a second job in breach of their visa conditions, the rules are far less clear. Strictly speaking, there is no express provision within the sponsor guidance in respect of any reporting duties around unauthorised secondary employment, which is not surprising given that primary employers may not always be privy to any second job role.

    However, under the same guidance for sponsors, UKVI advises that in circumstances where a sponsor is employing a person who is working in breach of the conditions of their permission ‘and’ the employer could reasonably have been aware of this breach, UKVI will normally revoke that employer’s licence. As such, it is a reasonable assumption that if a primary employer is fully aware of a sponsored worker accepting secondary employment in breach of the rules, at least in theory, they too could be at risk of non-compliance action.

    Can sponsored workers be stopped from taking on a second job?

    If a sponsored worker is permitted under the rules to take on a second job, for example, where they are a Skilled Worker and any extra paid work meets the relevant criteria for supplementary employment, or where they are a Scale-Up Worker allowed to undertake any additional employment, they cannot be stopped by UKVI from working two jobs.

    However, the fact that a migrant worker may not be in breach of the Immigration Rules, does not necessarily mean that they are not in breach of their contract of employment. This is because many employers will make contractual provision prohibiting any employee from working two jobs or, at the very least, requiring employees to seek their prior approval. This could be designed to prevent staff from moonlighting for a competitor. Equally, it could be to avoid any negative impact on performance and productivity, where overworked staff can easily affect employee engagement. As such, if a worker is expressly prohibited from taking a second job under their employment contract, disciplinary action could be taken.

    Even where there is no express prohibition from working two jobs under their contract, or the primary employer’s permission is not needed, employers will often still include notification provisions, requiring employees to let them know if they take a second job.

    Importantly, all employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their staff, where double-jobbing could not only pose a potential risk to health and safety in the workplace, where exhausted staff are far more likely to make mistakes and cause accidents, it could also pose a risk to a worker’s own health and wellbeing. Employers must also carefully monitor the total working hours undertaken by each member of staff, including each sponsored worker, to ensure that they are not working in excess of the weekly working time limit and that the statutory requirements for weekly rest breaks are met. As such, if a second job is starting to impact the business or worker, again the primary employer could instigate disciplinary action in a bid to stop them from working two jobs.

    Sponsored worker second employment FAQs

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    Legal disclaimer

    The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.


    Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

    Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing & Content Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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