Post-Brexit immigration system must consider the needs of small businesses
On September 6th the All Parliamentary Group on Migration (APPG) released its report looking at how Brexit will affect the immigration needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and public sector organisation.
The report comes a day after the Guardian published a leaked internal Home Office discussion paper that set out detailed proposals on how the Government would seek to reduce the number of low-skilled workers migrating to the UK from the EU.
The BBC also reported a leaked document issued by the government confirming that the low skilled EU Migrants will be offered residency for a maximum of only two years, and those in high skilled jobs will be offered a longer period of five years.
According to APPG, 7 % of the UK population are EU workers who are employed in low skilled jobs within small businesses. The report also highlights the frustrations that many of their employees are classed as low skilled workers despite having the relevant skills and qualifications for the role.
One care homes boss told the APPG: “Care work is very skilled, and we aim to train all our care assistants to at least Level 3 Diploma standard, as well as providing specialist training to anyone working with customers with dementia, Parkinson’s, or nearing the end of their lives. However, the immigration system does not recognise these essential skills, and treats care workers as unskilled labour – this is an insult to them.”
Due to the shortage of the UK’s domestic workforce not willing to fill job roles in some sectors, the EU workforce accounts for up to 50% of the employee base. The EU free movement has been a safe option for SMEs, however the new strict regime and a new point based system for EU workers would limit the flexibility many sectors need and will lead to the shortage of occupation.
The report makes the following recommendations:
- The government should be developing a top-down and a bottom-up view of the level of EU migration needed for the UK economy in the next 5 years with respect to high-skilled, mid-skilled and low-skilled work. A bottom-up approach should include extensive consultation with local economic migration stakeholders as well as analysis of local circumstances and the expectations from work of the local and migrant workforce. In this context, the APPG welcomes the Government’s recent announcement of a Migration Advisory Committee study of the impacts on the United Kingdom labour market of the UK’s exit from the European Union.
- The current shortage occupation list reflects skills shortages in an economy that has unhindered access to labour from the EU. The government should review, and where appropriate, expand the UK shortage occupation list to more accurately reflect the scarcity of certain skillsets post-Brexit.
- Given the labour shortage, the government should conduct a review of the reasons that are preventing the settled workforce from taking up roles in certain sectors, and commit to undertaking a positive public relations exercise around industry sector roles that are considered, often wrongly, as ‘low-skilled’, such as roles in the hospitality, food, retail and social care sectors.
- Apprenticeships should be encouraged as a tool for training and upskilling the domestic workforce. Apprenticeships should be encouraged and provided for a variety of age groups, including for people who might be interested in switching to other industries.
- Where there are acute labour shortages, the government should consider a sectoral visa scheme or adaptation of the shortage occupation list, for example, in social care or agriculture.
- Given how vital the continued access to workforce from outside the UK is, the government should conduct an in-depth review of the Points Based System. Any proposals to extend the PBS to apply to EU migration post-Brexit should be carefully assessed to take into account the needs of the UK economy, particularly a large degree of flexibility, as well as incentives of current and potential migrant workers.
- The UK government must clarify its proposals for post-Brexit EU migration in order to provide reassurance to EU nationals and their families as well as businesses and prospective employers.
- Any transition period should allow businesses and employers the opportunity to ‘phase in’ the change, in particular, the ability to retain access to migrant labour in the medium term.
- Any proposals for a regional visa should be widely consulted on across the UK, made simple and be designed to address local fluctuations in salary or vacancy needs.
Our advice to all businesses employing EU workers is to take action now and submit residence applications, we have assisted many EU citizens directly by obtaining 5 year and permanent residence cards for them and their dependents. We offer a flexible approach to small businesses and can ease the burden on you by making sure that your business is not affected post Brexit.