The government’s plan to change the work permit system from 50 entry routes to a five-tiered, points-based system is a laudable attempt to finally bring simplicity to an over-complex process.
The main aim of the consultation launched last week is to maximise the economic benefit to the UK by ensuring that British businesses attract exactly the overseas talent they need to plug their many skills gaps.
Employers groups agree that it is right to prioritise the highly-skilled top two tiers of workers, especially in the key areas of health, education and engineering, which could go some way to addressing the UK’s leadership shortage.
But with 27% of employers intending to recruit from abroad this quarter, there is rising concern over restrictions on the number of lower-skilled workers who will be allowed into the UK.
Under the new plans, entry criteria will be much tougher for the lower skilled, and those doing temporary jobs could have part of their wages kept in their home bank account to make sure they really do make it out of the UK when their job is over.
The government says that Eastern European workers will continue to fulfil the need for lower-skilled labour, but there is no guarantee that supply will meet the ever-increasing demand.
The Employability Forum, a body that promotes the integration of migrant employees, says this issue has to move “from the bar to the boardroom”, and that employers should go public about the value that migrant workers add.
Employers are being urged to contribute to this consultation. Organisations in the public and the private sector which depend on migrant labour have to get involved in this debate so they can shape the system in a way that works for them.
Speak up now, and make sure your voice is heard. You’ve got 15 weeks left to do it.