Multinational firms have rushed to the defence of immigration changes introduced last week, claiming the new rules will “make no difference” to UK employers’ ability to attract overseas talent.
The new rules, which came into effect on 6 April, mean skilled migrant workers transferring from an overseas country to work at their company’s British offices will no longer be able to clock up time spent in the UK to contribute towards the five years required to apply for permanent residence.
Employment lawyers and migrant campaign groups had warned the changes to the intra-company transfer (ICT) system could cause a skills exodus and put migrants off working in the UK.
But Ann Brown, HR director at consultancy firm Capgemini, which has about 500 ICT staff, told Personnel Today: “The proposition we make to our employees is not ‘come over, we will give you a length of time and you can add it up to stay in the UK’. That was never something used to get people to come to the UK and take work onshore.
“The opportunity to work on interesting programmes and learn new skills is what’s motivating people, not using it as a lever to create an opportunity to live in the UK.”
She added that the UK skills exodus mooted by campaign groups was of no concern, as skills would be retained within the global business.
Other multinational employers insisted they relied on ICTs for temporary workers on fixed-term contracts, quashing fears that the changes to the points-based system would affect recruitment.
Helen Brown, HR manager at IT firm IBM, said: “ICTs are designed for temporary transferees. IBM makes it clear to the migrant workers who join us through ICT Tier 2 that their [main] job is in a different country to the UK.”
But Ellen Shipley, head of global mobility at telecommunications giant BT, which had 50 ICTs last year, warned the changes would “put UK-based employers at a disadvantage” and discourage some migrants from seeking more experienced roles in the UK because they could not stay permanently.