Employers will need to adjust said the government when it announced the introduction to a UK’s Points-Based Immigration System, which could restrict the supply of low skilled labour, many of which work in the FM sector . Pam Loch, Solicitor and Managing Director of Loch Associates Group explains the changes
The UK Government’s disclosure of its plan for a new ‘firm and fair’ Points-Based Immigration System will have disappointed employers who struggle to recruit into lower skilled roles. The policy statement sets out the plan to attract highly skilled workers who contribute to the UK economy, communities and public services once free-movement in the EU ends.
From 1 January 2021, EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally. Top priority will be given to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents, for example engineers, scientists and academics. A general low-skilled or temporary work route will not be introduced causing much concern. The Government intends instead to shift the UK economy away from a reliance on cheaper labour from Europe. “Employers will need to adjust”, it says.
The decision not to implement a route for lower-skilled workers to gain easy access to the UK has been based on several factors. After considering recommendations from its expert advisers, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the Government believes it is important that employers move away from a reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, productivity and wider investment in technology and automation. It has been made clear though that the Government wants EU citizens already in the UK to stay and to continue to make significant contributions to the UK by using the EU Settlement Scheme. It believes that many of those workers work in lower-skilled roles already.
The Settlement Scheme for EU citizens , which opened in March 2019, has received 3.2 million applications so far. The Government hopes that by encouraging those individuals who are already working here to apply to stay and work, will address the concerns that have been expressed about the insufficient supply of labour.
Under the new Points-Based system, all applicants will need a total of 70 points to be eligible to apply for a visa. There are three essential requirements which must be met. This means that if the applicant has an approved job offer which is at the appropriate skill level, they speak English and the salary is £25,600 or above, the individual would be eligible to make a visa application.
However, if they earn less than £25,600, but no less than £20,480, the individual may still be able to apply if they can find the points from another characteristic. A minimum salary of £20,480 is required in order to be able to apply for a visa. For example, a University researcher in a STEM subject wishing to come to the UK on a salary of £22,000, (which is below the general minimum salary threshold) may still be able to enter the UK if they have a relevant PhD in a STEM subject.
Those seeking to live and work in the UK will now need to be qualified only up to A level or equivalent, rather than degree level under the current system. This should provide access to a wider pool of skilled workers for employers in the UK.
The MAC will be responsible for producing a shortage occupation list which will be kept under regular review. Certain sectors have already been identified as falling into the shortage category. For example, a nurse wishing to come to the UK on a salary of £22,000 would still be able to enter the UK on the basis that they would be working in a shortage occupation, provided it continues to be designated in shortage by the MAC.
The UK Government has stated that this is just the first stage in their plans for a points-based system and that the Home Office will continue to refine the system as time goes on. It is wary though about making the system too complex.
In terms of next steps for employers, those not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider doing so now if they want to sponsor skilled migrants from early 2021.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said this is “a historic moment for the whole country. We’re ending free movement and taking back control of our borders”. She added that businesses could also recruit from among eight million “economically inactive” potential workers in the UK.
However with the current majority in Parliament, things are unlikely to change dramatically. The Points-Based system is here to stay.