UK businesses would struggle under new immigration proposals – report

Over half of UK businesses with staff from outside the UK would be negatively impacted by government proposals for the UK’s future immigration system.

That’s according to new research carried out jointly by the British Chambers of Commerce and global job site Indeed.

According to a survey of 380 UK businesses that currently employ non-UK nationals, 53 per cent report they would be negatively impacted by proposals requiring all skilled migrant workers to earn a minimum annual salary of £30,000 once the UK leaves the EU.

What’s more, 57 per cent of employers say they would be adversely affected by plans to impose a 12-month work and residency limit on lower skilled migrants, requiring workers to leave the UK for at least a year once their visa had expired.

“When UK businesses are unable to recruit skills and labour at a local or national level, the UK’s new immigration system must allow them to access non-UK workers quickly and cost effectively,” said Jane Gratton, Head of People Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce. “The survey results reflect the extent of business concerns about future restrictions, charges and thresholds, as these will exacerbate recruitment costs and barriers.”

Over a third of firms (34 per cent) would be negatively impacted by an extension of the Immigration Skills Charge to EU nationals. The charge is currently paid by businesses for each migrant worker they recruit from outside the EU, adding to the upfront costs of employment.

UK businesses also report a need for access to foreign language skills. 23 per cent of respondents say German and Mandarin Chinese will be important to their business in the next five years, and 20 per cent say French and Spanish will be – highlighting both the importance of ensuring native speakers are available and improving language skills in the UK workforce.

“Communication at work remains essential and language skills in particular have become vital in a connected world in which more businesses than ever operate across borders,” said Pawel Adrjan, UK economist at the global job site Indeed. “While research suggests that fewer UK students are learning foreign languages, our data reveals the importance of learning new spoken skills. German recently overtook French as the most sought-after language by UK employers but demand for Chinese languages has rocketed over the past year as businesses consider future trading relations.”

The British Chamber of Commerce says that at a time of record low unemployment, when businesses are reporting critical levels of recruitment difficulties, the proposals in the Immigration White Paper would add to the cost and barriers employers face in accessing the skills they need. The leading business group is calling for proposals that ensure firms in all regions and sectors can continue to access skills at every level, when they are unable to recruit locally.

The report points out that the ending of free movement will present significant costs and challenges for employers. The new Prime Minister will need to take a fresh look at the immigration restrictions and charges to ensure firms can access the workers they need without undue bureaucracy and costs.

“Business communities will be calling on the next Prime Minister to ensure the UK’s future immigration policy has the right balance of flexibility and controls to alleviate their concerns,” Gratton added.

Article published 9th July 2019