Business gives immigration plan mixed reception

Business chiefs have given a curate's egg reception to the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendations, regarding some parts as good and some not.

Border control image illustrates article in which British industry responds to the latest MAC immigration report

The CBI: migration should be part of trade negotiations

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the Migration Advisory Committee's recognition of the benefits that immigration brought to UK society and the economy at large, but had concerns that the subject did not feature in future trade negotiations.Matthew Fell, the CBI's UK policy director, said: "The findings are clear about the immigration dividend. Productivity and innovation benefit from migration, and training for UK workers increases. It finds barely any negative effects for jobs or wages for UK citizens.

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"The critical recommendation missing from the report is that migration should be part of trade negotiations, starting with the EU."If it is the government's intention to implement a global system, preferential access for countries where the UK has trade deals will be essential to provide the basis for an open and controlled system that can work for the UK's economy."

British Chambers of Commerce: MAC recommendations unlikely to meet the needs of all employers

Jane Gratton, head of business environment and skills policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said that as far as the nation's skills shortage was concerned, the report "gives with one hand and takes away with the other", adding that the recommendations were unlikely to meet the needs of all employers."Any sudden cut-off of EEA skills and labour would be concerning, if not disastrous, for firms across a wide range of regions and sectors," she said."We support the recommendation to scrap the Tier 2 cap on skilled workers, having long called on the government to drop this nonsensical restriction on accessing the best talent from around the world. But businesses don't just need the 'best and brightest' - industries such as agriculture, hospitality and social care rely on overseas labour to fill local shortages."

City of London Corporation: access to global talent is a critical issue for the financial industry

Catherine McGuinness, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, applauded the fact the MAC had recognised the vital role that highly skilled EU nationals played in the UK labour market.“Access to global talent is a critical issue for the financial and related professional services industry. More than one in four people working in banking and finance in London are non-UK citizens, with EU citizens helping to fill almost 17 per cent of jobs across the sector," she said."Both firms and individuals working in the UK urgently need certainty about how our immigration system will operate post-Brexit. In order to realise the government’s vision for Global Britain, we must remain open to global talent.”

Federation of Master Builders: MAC proposals could "cripple" the nation's construction industry

More damning, however, was Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, who said the MAC proposals could "cripple" the nation's construction industry."Today's report makes very worrying reading for the tens of thousands of small construction firms across the UK who are already deeply concerned about the skills shortage," he said."Its recommendations ignore the pleas of construction employers who have called on the government to introduce a visa system based on key occupations rather than arbitrary skill levels. Instead, the proposal is to apply the Tier 2 immigration system to EU workers, which would be disastrous for small and micro construction firms."

Institute of Directors: MAC report punctures some of the more negative stories around the impact of overseas workers in the UK

Stephen Martin, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said: "Today's report rightly punctures some of the more negative stories around the impact of overseas workers in the UK."The conclusion in particular that migration does not impact the training of the UK-born workforce bears out the evidence from business leaders."Small and medium-sized firms will also be concerned that it does not go far enough in addressing the issues faced by all but the largest businesses."

EEF: Don't overlook the importance of the EU in terms of trade and as a source of skills for the UK

Tim Thomas, director of employment and skills policy at the manufacturers' organisation EEF, said: "Any changes to current immigration rules will need to allow businesses and people significant time to adjust, and simply sketching out a one-size-fits-all approach for workers from anywhere in world risks overlooking the importance of the EU in terms of trade and a vital source of skills for the UK."

CIPD: retail, hospitality and social care in the UK will continue to struggle to find the needed people and skills

Commenting on the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations out today, Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD commented, “Many UK employers will face significant challenges in accessing the skills and labour they need if proposed changes to migration policy by the Migration Advisory Committee are adopted in full or without a significant transition period.“While the report acknowledges the need for flexibility so employers can access high-skilled workers coming into the UK from the EU, it fails to recognise the balance of skills and labour needed in the UK.“It’s very disappointing that the report has largely ignored the importance of a route that will enable employers to continue to access low-skilled workers from the EU. This will provide significant challenges for UK employers, particularly those in key sectors such as retail, hospitality and social care, which are already struggling to find the people and skills they need.“The Government should be cautious about making significant policy changes that limit low- and medium-skilled labour when the very modest potential gains are more than likely going to be offset by making it harder for employers to recruit the labour they need and, as the MAC acknowledges, may have unintended consequences for the recruitment of higher-skilled labour.”

Employers recruiting EU workers to low-skilled roles because they can't recruit UK-born workers

Looking at specific recommendations, Willmott commented, “Expanding the tier 2 route - in theory making it possible for employers to recruit medium as well as high-skilled EU workers in the future - without lowering the salary threshold from £30,000 will mean that, in practice, employers’ ability to recruit these workers will be significantly limited.“We welcome the suggestion that the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme could be extended to EU workers to fill low-skilled roles. However, this in itself is unlikely to address significant long-standing labour shortages in key sectors such as retail, hospitality and social care.”“Taken together, the recommendations look overly bureaucratic and restrictive. Our research consistently shows that employers are recruiting EU workers into low-skilled roles because they can’t recruit UK-born workers into these roles, not in an effort to pay lower wages or avoid training.“We hope that the Government continues to listen to the concerns of employers and seeks to create a system that is flexible, cost-effective and user-friendly, and enables organisations to access both the skills and labour they need after Brexit.”

Global Mobility immigration perspective

Rahul Batra, Managing Partner at Hudson McKenzie said, "I find MAC’s report a welcome step which I feel would benefit the UK immensely. In light of Brexit, I concur with the MAC that we do not need to give EU citizens any preferential treatment over non-EU citizens i.e. extend the Tier 2 scheme to cover EU citizens and also making them liable to pay the Immigration Skills Charge."On a wider note, UK businesses would be delighted if the Tier 2 (General) cap is abolished and the scheme is extended to include medium-skilled jobs, as per the MAC’s proposals."

A leading immigration lawyer offers a suggestion for employers

Claire Nilson, leading immigration lawyer from Faegre Baker Daniels, explained the latest MAC recommendations and offers a suggestion for employers. She said, “The MAC report believes that in a no deal departure from the EU where immigration has not been negotiated into the departure, then the preference should be for a system in which all migration is managed without preferential treatment to EU citizens. The MAC favours higher skilled migration with no need for a work scheme for lower skilled workers “with the possible exception of a seasonal agricultural workers scheme”. This is based on the premise that low-skilled migrant workers could continue to come from family migration and the youth mobility scheme."For employers who may be in the position of wanting to employ highly skilled EU workers and who wish to be ahead of the curve, now might be the time to consider a review of their use of the Tier 2 visa category to ensure that they are up-to-date and ready to expand their sponsorship under this (or a similar) system.”
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