‘Simplify the immigration system’, UK firms demand

The main labour market concern of UK businesses is that government plans for a post-Brexit immigration system will make it impossible for them to hire the skills they need, according to a new survey.

The main labour market concern of UK businesses is that government plans for a post-Brexit immigration system will make it impossible for them to hire the skills they need, according to a new survey.
The annual survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and recruitment agency Pertemps found that 72 per cent felt the end of free movement after Brexit and Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan for a points-based immigration system would reduce access to skills and posed the biggest threat to the nation's labour market competitiveness.More than half of the 304 companies surveyed said their businesses would be hurt if immigration policy was not simplified. "With access to skills and the ability to move workers around the EU featuring heavily in businesses’ list of current and future concerns, getting the new immigration system right is vital," says the CBI."Nearly three in five businesses report that that they would be negatively impacted if the new immigration system is introduced before it is simplified so that businesses can actually use it."

A declining UK labour market?

The survey found that businesses expected these challenges to grow, with more than half of respondents saying they believed the UK labour market would become less attractive over the next five years.Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the CBI, says, “The UK’s labour market has remained remarkably resilient in the face of tougher economic conditions and uncertainty. But job growth is showing signs of tailing off and businesses are becoming more concerned about the competitiveness of the UK labour market.“It’s clear what’s weighing heavy on businesses minds is uncertainty about the new immigration system. Businesses believe that this can both support the economy and restore the public’s confidence that immigration is controlled."A strong partnership between business and government is essential to doing so. Whatever the final shape of the new immigration system, it needs to be simple from its first day of introduction and allow firms to access both the labour and skills they need to grow.“After a generation-defining election, business and government must form a determined partnership and commit to working together to create a labour market that supports people and the economy. Allowing companies to access people and skills they need is just as crucial as forging our future trading relationship with the EU.”

UK businesses push diversity and inclusion

The survey also found that UK businesses were increasingly implementing policies to foster diversity and inclusion, such as promoting flexible working (up from 54 per cent last year to 68 per cent now), improving progression opportunities and investing in training for line managers.More than 70 per cent of firms said they were continuing to take steps to improve gender diversity and reduce the gender pay gap, while 65 per cent said they were taking action to improve ethnic diversity and reduce the ethnicity pay gap.Tracy Evans, Pertemps group HR & quality director, says, “We are seeing businesses invest in their employees and are already seeing the return from it within the workforce. Businesses are embracing diverse workforces and inclusive workplace practices to ensure everyone feels encouraged to reach their full potential and share in success.“Closing pay gaps by ensuring fairness to everyone should be of particular importance to UK businesses, to support everyone, at all pay levels within UK plc.” 

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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