Posted by Richard Woodman, Partner
The Migration Advisory Committee provides recommendations for a post-Brexit immigration system
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has today published its long-awaited report on future migration following Brexit.
The report says the Britain won’t be unique if free movement ends, but recommends a new visa system which gives employers better access to highly and medium-skilled workers from around the world. It recommends a new system loosely based on the current Tier 2 points based (General) visa category, but says that it must be more user-friendly for employers and employees alike.
There should be no preferential treatment of EU workers over non-EU workers in future; however this issue could still be a negotiating point for the Government in its endeavours to get a Brexit deal. Under the new system, the cap on Tier 2 visas would be abolished as well as the requirement to advertise jobs to British citizens before recruiting from abroad.
Advantages and disadvantages for employers
The MAC recommends a post Brexit 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 which the MAC believes would boost productivity, innovation and financial growth. Employers and their recruiters in sectors including technology, software development, civil and mechanical engineering and in the maths and sciences arenas would undoubtedly reap the benefit because the talent pool would be wider.
EU citizens would not be given priority but would still have access to A level and degree level roles with a salary of at least £30,000. The disadvantage for employers is that they would face new administrative and financial burdens of obtaining sponsor licences to employ these employees. In addition, they would also have to pay the expensive skills surcharge which is currently £5,000 for a five-year visa for a large employer. EU employees would also have to pay the health surcharge which is currently £200 per year under the new immigration system.
No sector-based visas
The recommendation that there is not a work-related visa scheme for low-skilled workers except in respect of a seasonal agricultural workers scheme will be a huge concern for employers and recruiters in social care, construction, retail and the hospitality and leisure sectors. The MAC report acknowledges that this will draw criticism from some quarters but it reiterates that there is no need for sector-based visas. Instead, it suggests that the current Youth Mobility Scheme which enables people aged between 18 and 30 from participating countries to live and work in the UK for two years is extended to more countries to help alleviate the impact of a more restrictive approach to low skilled workers. There would be serious knock-on effects for employers who depend on EU workforce to fill low-skilled jobs, for example in relation to warehouse workers, packers and drivers, who are predominantly from the EU and recruited via agencies, particularly in the north east of the UK.
In respect of the other sectors like social care, the MAC received feedback regarding the concerning shortage of workers including nurses, social workers and care assistants. EU staff are now more likely to apply for care assistant positions than their UK or non-EU counterparts. The MAC says poor wages and terms and conditions are the major obstacles for attracting and retaining workers and calls on the Government to review its social care policy. Whilst helpful, this is unlikely to be of practical short term assistance to social care providers who face increasing service demands from a booming elderly population.
Summary of recommendations
- New immigration system should make it easier for higher and medium-skilled workers to live and work in the UK than lower-skilled workers.
- No preference for EU citizens.
- Abolish the cap on the number of visas allocated to migrants under the system.
- Employers could recruit for A level roles under the new system.
- Maintain existing salary thresholds which would be at least £30,000 per annum.
- Retain but review the Immigration Skills Charge.
- Abolish the Labour Market Resident Test in which employers must first advertise the vacant role before sponsoring a migrant.
- There will be no sector-based visas with the potential exception of a Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAWS) scheme.
- If a SAWS scheme is reintroduced, introduce an agricultural minimum wage to encourage increases in productivity.
- Consider filling low-skilled roles by extending the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme to more countries.
In the coming months, we will be holding seminars on Brexit and immigration for our clients to help them and their workers to navigate the new rules as and when they arrive.
For tailored advice on immigration issues and the implications of Brexit on employers and employees, or for advice on any related issues, please contact our Business Immigration specialist Helen Murphie:
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