Employers support skills-based post-Brexit immigration system

The majority of employees in the UK support a nationwide skills-based approach to a post-Brexit immigration system, according to a recent survey by the CIPD and the Adecco group.

Skilled workers sitting
A survey of 2,000 employers by the CIPD and the Adecco group found that the relative majority of employers (41 per cent) would prefer a UK-wide immigration system that is based on national labour or skill shortage occupations, in the likely event of migration restrictions once the UK leaves the EU.In contrast, around one in ten (13 per cent) favour a sector-based policy and just 5 per cent would back a regional policy.

Maintaining a broad labour pool

The report notes that the preference for a national labour or skills shortage occupation scheme reflects the main reason given by organisations for employing EU nationals, which is that they have difficulty finding local applicants to fill lower skilled roles, as cited by 18 per cent of employers.Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said, “The Government’s continued rhetoric of an immigration system that only works to attract ‘the brightest and the best’ simply doesn’t tally with what employers want or the economy needs. “Employers have expressed concern over preferential arrangements being made for certain sectors and regions as well as the additional cost and complexity such a system would cause. A post-Brexit immigration system based on a national skills or labour shortage occupation list is the most straightforward scheme to implement and would avoid penalising employers who have no alternative to recruiting EU nationals for what are thought of as low-skilled roles.”
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Training and investment in the workforce

The survey also showed that organisations that employ EU nationals are significantly more likely than employers that don’t recruit EU nationals to be investing in training.Organisations that employ EU nationals are much more likely to have a training budget (84 per cent) than those who don’t (45 per cent).Findings also indicated that organisations that employ EU migrants are typically doing so as part of wider efforts to invest in skills and talent and to find the labour they require, not because they are looking to cut costs or are failing to invest in UK-born workers.

A flexible migration system?

When asked about how they might respond to future migration restrictions on EU workers, the most common response cited by more than a quarter (27 per cent) of employers is to continue to recruit EU nationals where possible, including a third (30 per cent) of public sector organisations.Mr Davies continued, “The data shows that it’s highly questionable whether future migration restrictions on EU nationals will act as a catalyst for improving skills investment in the UK. To kick-start greater investment in skills across the economy as the UK prepares to leave the EU, the Government should urgently review the Apprenticeship Levy and make it much more flexible to employers’ skills requirements.”Alex Fleming, president of general staffing, The Adecco Group UK&I, said, “It is now clearer than ever that investment in staff is critical to business success, especially in this uncertain political climate with unknown and potential restrictions which may impose on the flow of EU talent that our economy depends on.“Employers need to be on the front foot when it comes to solving the skills shortages in their businesses and not wait for the Government to produce and implement a system that may allow EU nationals of varying skill levels to work in the UK. Development strategies need to be created with the current workforce in mind.
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