Legal: New immigration rules

Legal: New immigration rules

Roger Gherson, partner, and Sasha Lal, consultant and trainee solicitor, for Gherson Solicitors on the new post-Brexit arrangements…

Boris Johnson’s government finally announced the launch of its hotly anticipated new points-based system for immigration recently. With much speculation in the media about how this will affect the catering industry, let’s begin by looking at the facts.

Intended to attract the ‘brightest and the best’ international talent to the UK, the new system will take effect from 1st January 2021. Businesses in the catering industries must begin looking at their recruitment strategies, as the very much needed ‘lower-skilled’ working migrants who predominantly work in the sector will be unable to enter the country.

Foreign nationals will be required to achieve 70 points on the following criteria:
1. Job offer from approved sponsor – 20 points
2. Job at appropriate skill level – 20 points
3. English language – 10 points
4. Salary (minimum of £25,600) – up to 30 points
5. Job in shortage occupation – 20 points
6. PhD in relevant job sector – 10 points
7. PhD in relevant STEM subject – 20 points

The government has suggested that the 3.2m European Union (EU) citizens who have applied to continue living in the UK could help meet labour market demands – a rather bold statement. It will be interesting to review the statistics on whether this comes to pass. Given the above statement, it is estimated that 70% of the existing EU workforce would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route, which will help to bring overall numbers down in the future.

It is not all doom and gloom, however. One of the major changes to the system is the reduction in the minimum salary threshold. This should be advantageous to the hospitality industry, who cannot fill vacancies from the resident labour market and need to look further afield. The reduction in the minimum salary (from £30,000 to £25,600) should make hiring migrant workers cheaper.

Another significant change for the industry is the reduction in the skill level that a job needs in order to meet for an employer to hire a worker from abroad. Currently, a job needs to be of degree level or above. Under the new system, this will be reduced to school graduate level, meaning that job roles in catering may fall into the scope of permitted jobs going forward.

However, it is clear to see that many workers in the hospitality sector will still not qualify. Priti Patel, the home secretary, and her team would be well advised to reconsider the high threshold of points here before the industry falls to its knees. Employers will need to provide sponsorship for any foreign national, which can be an expensive and arduous process. Even with sponsorship, there is no guarantee that a worker will be permitted. To reach 70 points is quite an unrealistic feat for low skilled workers. Do not be fooled by the lowering of the salary threshold or skill level. Even with these there is no guarantee of a stringent workforce.