The recruitment industry has started to come to terms with the government’s approach to immigration. Notably, under the plan, people considered ‘low skilled’ will be unable to come to the UK for work. As the REC and others are noting, people who wish to come to the UK to work will be required to speak English and have a job offer with a salary of £25,600 or more with few exceptions.
The news comes as ONS labour market figures show a rise in job vacancies for the first time in a year. The REC’s JobsOutlook survey showed almost half (49 per cent) of employers expected to find a shortage of workers. Skills shortages are especially severe among lower paid jobs such as carers, drivers, and agricultural workers.
“Skills and staff shortages are one of the biggest challenges facing the UK economy,” said Tom Hadley, director of policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation. “Roles in sectors as diverse as social care, hospitality and construction are already hard to fill which is why we need an evidence-based immigration policy that reflects the needs of employers.
“Jobs the government considers ‘low-skilled’ are vital to wellbeing and business growth,” he continued. “The announcement threatens shut out the people we need to provide services the public rely on. This would increase the likelihood of illegal working and exploitation. In the US, more than half of farmworkers and 15 per cent of construction workers are unauthorised. Nobody wants the UK to be in this position due to the lack of an official low-skilled immigration route where vulnerable workers will suffer.”
Hadley concludes: “We need access to workers that can help us look after the elderly, build homes and keep the economy strong. Employers ask that there is a temporary visa route for businesses to recruit the essential skills they need at all pay and skill levels.”
Elsewhere IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) has warned the new rules are flawed because they do not adequately cover the self-employed. “If the new immigration rules are meant to ensure the “best and brightest” come to the UK, they have made a fatal error: they have failed to make decent provision for the self-employed,’ said Andy Chamberlain, deputy director of policy at IPSE. “In fact, the government has explicitly said it will not create a dedicated route for self-employed people. Instead, freelancers must filter themselves through other tortuous routes such as the ‘innovation visa’, which requires for a ‘new idea’ and £50,000 in funds.
“So far, there does not seem to be any explicit provision for the skilled contractors that drive innovation in the UK,” he adds. “This is a fatal flaw: the government must urgently rethink its approach and set up a dedicated self-employed route. Otherwise, it risks not only hampering the flexible labour market in the UK, but also prompting the EU to take a similarly draconian approach to British contractors.”
Managing Director of Midlands recruitment agency Ambitions Personnel, Mandy Watson suggests the rules will require employers to change their approach particularly for employers in the manufacturing, food processing, and agricultural sector. “Companies are likely to need to change their approach when hiring,” she says, “This may result in paying higher wages to attract the shrinking number of workers available. Perks and benefits packages are an easy way to encourage this, but the trend of recruitment very much becoming candidate-driven will only increase if the proposed measures go ahead.”
Firms may be less likely to put resources and cash into recruiting if automation is an option. If a factory can increase the work done by machinery or even artificial intelligence, this could well be the spur for many to innovate and look into such solutions.
Mandy continued: “The changes will affect businesses large and small where they rely upon EU nationals as are termed as unskilled workers, particularly in seasonal peaks and need that relief and capacity to operate flexibly could be affected. Ideally, an extension of deadlines to this kind of legislation coming in might be needed so businesses can be prepared.
“The Australian points system is often held up as the world standard, with good reason,” Watson says: “Jobs are assigned as in demand on a continually-evolving basis according to demand. The proposals put forward to include this, but not to the same extent and with more emphasis on education and qualifications. Someone seeking work in a factory or seasonal food prep work is not likely to have these kinds of qualifications so this excludes a great many.”