Migrant worker restrictions no cause for concern, say employer bodies

Businesses must not panic after the government announced it would introduce further measures to restrict the movement of migrant workers in a bid to protect British jobs, according to employers’ bodies.

Earlier this week, the government doubled the amount of time employers need to advertise skilled jobs in Jobcentre Plus before recruiting non-EU workers, from two to four weeks.

Earlier this year, news that employers would even need to wait two weeks to advertise outside of the EU caused outrage across the HR profession, because professionals argued there was a severe skills gap in the UK.

But Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, called on employers not to fear the changes.

He told Personnel Today: “They have tightened the criteria, but it won’t have a major impact on the numbers coming into the UK to work – it’s still a points-based system.”

The government will also extend the qualifying period for all those overseas workers who want to transfer to work at their company’s UK base. They will need to have worked for their firm for at least a year, rather than the current six months, before they can transfer.

But Davies moved to calm employer fears that this would make it more difficult to recruit the right workers.

“In terms of skills shortages, they have made two changes to make it easier,” he said. “People with masters degrees are given more points in Tier 2, and certain occupations in the public sector can get extra points.”

John Cridland, CBI director-general, said: “These proposals strike the sensible balance that businesses were looking for. It is right that the work permit reacts to the recession and rising unemployment, but abolishing key routes into the country would have damaged the economy at this critical time.”

Professor David Metcalf, chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, which recommended the changes, pointed out the committee had consulted extensively with employers.

“Although a range of views were expressed, we believe that many will regard our proposals as reasonable and balanced,” he said. “The shortage occupation route remains in place for particular jobs suffering from national labour shortage that it would be sensible to fill using immigration.”

Key changes

  • All jobs must be advertised to British workers in JobCentre Plus for four weeks  extended from two weeks. 

  • Overseas workers will have to work at their firm for at least a year before they can transfer to work at their company’s UK base, rather than six months. 

  • The minimum salary that will allow an individual to qualify as a skilled worker and be eligible to work in the UK will rise from £17,000 to £20,000.
But Amit Kapadia, executive director of the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme Forum, disagreed. “Extending this requirement to four weeks will have a serious detrimental effect on companies that need to import specialist skills to respond to market conditions here.

“It smells of hypocrisy where you are happy enough to outsource or offshore work to other countries to compete globally, but don’t want people from those countries to compete in the UK job market.”

The move may also hike up wages, warned David Gibbons Wood, director of the Centre for International Labour Market Studies at the Robert Gordon University.

“The government is trying to increase demand for UK workers. However, overall, what they will do is limit the supply of workers to UK companies for the particular skills they are trying to recruit,” he told Personnel Today.

“By increasing demand for UK workers and limiting the supply of workers, both of those forces are going to act to potentially force up the wage.”



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