Employers have called for the Government to increase flexibility in the new points-based immigration system and to reward employers who invest in local skill. 

A new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank (IPPR) has urged the Government to reform the incoming points based immigration system.

It states that some of the UK’s most vulnerable industries could be negatively impacted by the current proposals. This incoming law, according to the thinktank, is expected to inhibit recruitment in some sectors whilst exacerbating the risks of informal working and exploitation.

The research has found the limiting effects of the new immigration system as around two-thirds of EU born workers (63 per cent) who currently live in the UK would not be eligible to do so under the new laws.

This poses a significant problem for sectors which heavily rely on EU workers such as food manafacturing (which is made up of 25 per cent EU migrants) and accommodation, warehousing and support for transport where EU migrants make up 20 per cent of the workers in this sector. For areas such as construction, in London, this number is as high as 30 per cent.

However, with tighter restrictions accompanying the incoming immigration law, IPPR suggest that this could hinder recruitment and leave gaps to be filled in certain industries. Noting that the main route for immigration will require migrants to be sponsored by an employer for a job deemed medium-skilled and earning a minimum salary of £25,600, this makes over four in five EU workers ineligible for a skilled worker visa.

Although industries such as technology and finance will be relatively protected from a lack of workers, other sectors like manufacturing, logistics and construction may struggle. The research further notes that although the Government may plan to give these jobs to UK citizens, it will ultimately take time to re-train and upskill workers to fit these vacancies.

The report also notes how this could lead to a rise of exploitation and poor working practices. It predicts that some employers who had previously relied on EU workers will now turn to informal work arrangements to fill vacancies which could place migrant workers in more vulnerable situations. These could include unfair deductions, inadequate health and safety measures and firing and hiring that deviates from legal procedures.

Based on these findings, the IPPR have made recommendations for the reform of the immigration laws including:

  • Expanding the shortage occupation list which will allow the inclusion of occupations at all skill levels – Within this, the report clarifies that applicants who have a job on the shortage list should be exempt from the skills requirement. It also pushes for the Government to include jobs that are critical for the social and economic policy of the UK but do not fall under the medium-skilled bracket.
  • Scrap the general salary threshold of £25,600– It states that this is too inflexible and does not reflect the full contribution of migrant workers.
  • Require employers to pay the real living wage to their employees to gain a sponsorship license – This wage would be mandatory for both UK and migrant workers.
  • Grant additional points for applications to more responsible employers under the points-based system – This would incentivise more responsible working practices on the part of employers.
  • Require sponsors to inform migrants of their employment rights – This information would need to be translated into multiple languages and include information on how to join a trade union.
  • Expand the funding and focus of labour inspectorates – The IPPR suggests that the resourcing of labour inspectorates should be expanded in order to meet the minimum International Labour Organisation minimum standards.

Marley Morris, IPPR Associate Director for Immigration, Trade and EU Relations, said:

We are now weeks away from one of the greatest changes to our immigration system in decades. Our research finds that sectors such as social care and construction could face increasing skills shortages as a result of the coming changes. As our care system struggles and businesses reel from the effects of the pandemic, it is vital that the new points-based system helps to support the country’s response to coronavirus and the economic recovery.

The government can use the new system to ‘build back better’ from the current crisis. The rules should be reformed to allow employers to address immediate skills shortages across all parts of the labour market, while also encouraging employers who sponsor migrant workers to pay the living wage, offer secure work, and invest in skills and training.