Businesses say 'cut visa salary threshold'

A coalition of employers' and business organisations is demanding the UK government slash the minimum salary for overseas workers to £20,000 in its post-Brexit immigration plan.

The Full Strength group, headed by the London First lobby group and including such organisations as Universities UK, techUK and the Recruitment and Employment Federation, warned in a submission to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) that thousands of vacancies risked going unfilled unless a proposed minimum salary of £30,000 for foreign workers was reduced.The warning came as Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, warned in a speech in the capital that the government’s post-Brexit immigration plans risked doing “huge damage” to the economy both in London and nationally.Addressing the annual London Conference on Tuesday, Mr Khan said: “We simply cannot afford to turn our backs on those who want to come to London to live, study or work.”In its submission to the MAC, Full Strength said lowering the salary threshold to around £20,000 would bring it in line with the realities of the labour market. Nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the UK currently command salaries of less than £30,000, rising to about three-quarters in health and social care, and retail, it said.Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said: “As we head into a general election, it is critical that all parties commit to putting in place a fair and managed immigration system that keeps our economy open to the people we need. “Employers are already struggling to fill vacancies and the end of Freedom of Movement means existing skills shortages risk becoming even more acute. “To keep the UK at full strength, we need a salary threshold that reflects reality and a single, demand-led system that works for the whole of the country.” In its proposals to the MAC, the group said the next government must deliver a single, skills-led system, which operated in a simple and efficient way so that small and big businesses could have access to the talent they needed.It also argued against a system based on regional variations, which it said risked adding complexity, costs and confusion. However, the submission welcomed the commitment to reintroduce the two-year, post-study work visa.The group also called on the next government to support a two-year temporary work route; a reformed sponsorship model aimed at reducing the costs and bureaucracy of the current system; an extension of the current youth mobility scheme to include EU citizens; and the creation of an improved 90-day business visitor visa to enable companies to move staff across offices to work on projects.Neil Carberry, CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said: “The UK has a proud history of welcoming colleagues, friends and family members who come to the UK to contribute to national prosperity and to build their lives here. “At all skill levels, from people working in restaurants through to surgeons operating in our NHS, there’s a great history of Britain benefiting from the skills and talents people from other countries bring.
"After Brexit, global Britain needs that more than ever and that’s why we back the Full Strength coalition’s call to make sure we’re open to the world as we grow together.”Members of the #FullStrength coalition also include the Association of Labour Providers, British Retail Consortium, the Coalition for a Digital Economy, the Confederation of Passenger Transport, Federation of Master Builders, Innovate Finance, Tech London Advocates, North West Business Leadership Team, UKHospitality and UKinbound.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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