Migrant worker licence bottleneck likely as few issued so far

Just 168 employers have been given licences to employ migrant workers under immigration rules that come into force in November, Personnel Today has learned.

Under Tiers 2 and 5 of the new points-based system – covering skilled migrant workers and overseas temps respectively – organisations wishing to hire workers from outside the EU need to be listed on the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) register of sponsors.

With those tiers due to come into force in November the Home Office has advised employers wishing to register to apply by 1 October to leave enough time for UKBA inspection visits.

But to date, the Home Office has granted sponsorship licences to just 168 employers, with thousands of businesses still to apply. Earlier this year, legal experts had warned there could be a bottleneck in sponsorship applications as employers woke up to the application deadline.

The Institute of Ismaili Studies, is one of the few employers that has received a licence. Amanda Harris, head of HR at the education provider, told Personnel Today: “The concern is that organisations will not be in a position to recruit the staff they need, when they need them, if they do no have this sponsorship in place when the system changes.”

A UKBA spokesman said last week: “Our message to businesses is loud and clear – if you want to employ foreign workers from outside the European Economic Area, you need to apply now for a sponsor licence.”

Migrant workers going home

Employers need to do more to retain migrants in the UK workforce, a report will warn later this month.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank found that employers and local economies were not reaping the full benefits of migration because many workers were staying for short periods rather than settling in the UK.

About one million Eastern European migrants have arrived in the UK since 2004, but about half of them are thought to have returned home already.

The IPPR report says migrants play a key role in changing local skills mixes and doing jobs that UK workers don’t want to do.

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