The government has come under fire after leaked Home Office files reveal proposals to curb low-skilled EU migration. The leaked immigration proposals also show plans for stricter ‘right to work’ checks. The controversial proposals have seen the government accused of allowing bad bosses to exploit migrants and undercutting good employers.
The leaked draft proposals reveal plans to lower the number of low-skilled EU migrants. The plans include offering a maximum residency of only two years; however those in high-skilled professions could receive permits of up to five years. This gives preference to resident workers, while requiring employers to carry out stricter ‘right to work’ checks.
The proposals form the first policy ideas showing the government trying to fulfil its pledge to reduce net migration. The ideas would seem to be adhering to the Brexiteer’s mantra of ‘British jobs for British workers’ i.e. employers must prove that they tried to recruit locally before looking abroad for workers.
Employers’ confidence in the UK economy dips
The plans in the leaked Home Office document pleased many pro-Brexit commentators. However, the response was less favourable from business bosses. In fact, it seems employers might have started to lose confidence in the UK economy, according to the findings of a new report from the REC (Recruitment & Employment Confederation). The REC survey found that 31% of employers now expect the UK economy to get worse. Only 28% of employers anticipate the economy will improve. Worryingly, the net balance fell from +6 to -3 last month.
The biggest concern for employers is the skills shortage. Construction is one sector that seems to be losing the most confidence, with the sector particularly reliant on EU workers. The European Union Withdrawal Bill also continues to concern those who believe that employment rights could be at risk post-Brexit. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have voiced fears that the bill will not do enough to protect workers’ rights that come from the EU. Holiday pay and the rights of agency workers post-Brexit, make the top of the list of concerns.
No choice for some employers but to employ EU nationals
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research published a report revealing 35% of employers in food manufacturing, hospitality and care sectors had no option but to employ EU27 nationals. That’s because they were unable to find UK workers willing to take on low or no-skill roles. Some employment experts say that employers must invest more in their ‘recruitment, reward and people development policies’, to ensure they are doing all they can to attract and develop British workers. Some critics argue that the government seems to want to turn businesses into a border agency, and in so doing, the Home Office cannot claim to be taking back control while expecting employers to do the immigration checks for them.
Employers must act now
If the UK does need an immigration system that offers control, it must also enable employers to access the foreign workers they need. Any new immigration policy should be made simple enough for everyone to understand, while also meeting the needs of the UK economy. Employers hiring from the EU should use this as a reminder to act now by reviewing their concerns and contingency plans in relation to future migration restrictions. Failing to do so will mean they’ll have to face the consequences of recruitment problems in the future.