Posted by Helen Murphie, Partner
Post-Brexit employment landscape
The pub and bar trade rely heavily on young and overseas employees. The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) say that on average, 17% of the sector’s total workforce are overseas nationals with 14% coming from the EU. In larger metropolitan areas and in kitchen roles that can rise to 80%.
It will be no surprise then that sector is watching closely the Government’s position on post-Brexit immigration.
In September, the Migration Advisory Committee, a government body, made its recommendations. It proposed an immigration system which would see the introduction of visas for all non-British nationals who wish to live and work here. The system based loosely on the current Tier 2 points-based visa category for skilled workers would give employers better access to higher and medium skilled workers regardless of their nationality. EU citizens would not, however, be given priority.
Employees seeking work in the UK under these proposals would need to earn more than £30,000 a year, with employers having to sponsor licences and pay an expensive skills surcharge of up to £5,000 for a five-year visa. EU employees would also have to pay a health surcharge, which currently stands at £200 a year. This will present serious challenges for the restaurant and hospitality sector.
But what will really concern the sector is that the scheme will not extend to low-skilled workers.
The Government recognises that such a measure will draw criticism but has repeatedly said that it will not, with the exception of agricultural workers, introduce sector-based visas.
Instead, it suggests that the current Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme which enables people aged between 18 and 30 from participating countries to live in the UK for two years, to be extended to include more countries.
The scheme is considered more of a cultural exchange programme that allows visitors to work to fund their stay, and whilst extending its scope is helpful it will inevitable mean a much smaller pool of unskilled workers from which to recruit. Bar operators are likely to have to increase wages to attract staff, which in turn will mean higher costs for customers.
The hospitality trade competes more widely for good people with other industries, particularly retail and tourism. As with agricultural workers, a sector deal for tourism and leisure would be welcomed.
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