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Expats On Client Contracts

Most Skilled Worker visas are sponsored by service providers like TCS, Infosys, and the 'Big 4'.   Working on a client contract is OK - as long as it is the right sort of contract.  This guide explains the rules for sponsors, and for clients.  Getting the details right can be very important as licences may be suspended or revoked if sponsored staff are used as agency workers.

Sponsored Skilled Workers working on client projects

The rules in this area are deliberately designed to be a bit of a hassle for companies to follow. This is so that Consultancies and Clients have an incentive to choose local options when they are available.

Clients :  Do you need the work, or the worker?


If you need the worker as an individual, you should probably sponsor and hire them yourself (we can help).   If you just want the work output, then delivery by an expat sponsored by a consultancy can be fine.   But this can't be just a matter of signing suitable contracts, and forgetting about them.   You need to follow through.  In doing so, you will also protect yourself from other possible liabilities such as co-employment.  One bit of good news: sponsored expats onsite will be PAYE, so IR35 should be no worry.

Clients :  Protecting yourself, the workers, and the suppliers


Getting things wrong can be serious: if a supplier is wrongly providing you with an expat as an agency worker, you are illegally employing them, and the worker is illegally working in breach of their conditions.  But getting it right is not too difficult.  We are always able to advise, and suggest the following processes:




  • You sign off on a defined statement /schedule listing what the expat(s) will deliver to you.


  • You meet (or Zoom) the supplier's manager, and the onsite expat(s) that they supervise on a regular basis (it need not be a long meeting).

  • You sign off accepted outputs, and ensure that, when requirements evolve (they usually do), this is documented.


These processes are part of the best practice that many businesses adopt with all supplier staff onsite.  They can also help avoid co-employment claims, discrimination claims, and AWR claims.

It is not difficult to get it right, but can be disastrous to get wrong, so you may as well put in the effort up front (it's not that much effort), and have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have thought about the details and have good answers.

Suppliers :  Staying on the right side of the law


You could be forgiven for thinking that large companies (PWC, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, IBM, TCS, Infosys) seem to get away with general client engagement letters that, if used by an SME would have them treated as breaking the rules.  But this will not help you if your licence is suspended. The original logic (going back to the Work permit scheme in 1997) for not allowing recruitment agencies etc to sponsor temporary workers was that this would cause agencies to have a bench of expat staff on the payroll, which the agency would then put forward as a first resort (rather than a last resort) when a client called with a requirement. 


To that original logic is added the new Sponsor Licencing requirement that those benefitting from employing migrant workers should share (with the Home Office) the burden of ensuring compliance.  If Shell is the de-facto employer of a migrant, they want Shell to be accountable.  So, if you are a service provider, and not yet as big as PWC, expect the Home Office to be asking you to show how your sponsored expats on client projects are doing the work you have given them, rather than work given by the client. In these days of Agile projects, when (if it's working well) all stakeholders pull together to just get the job delivered, that often means ensuring that paperwork is updated as requirements evolve.  To do that you need the right processes.  We can help with process design, and with 'mock audits'.   

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