A new report calls on the Government to tweak the points-based immigration system in order to cope with key challenges within recruitment. 

Published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration and global immigration law firm Fragomen, the report identifies potential solutions which could enhance the effectiveness of new immigration rules.

The new immigration system, which is centred around a points-based system, came into force on 1st January 2021 and was created with the intention of utilising the skill-sets of employees from countries worldwide to fill existing skills shortages in the UK.

However, in light of labour shortages which have worsened over recent months, the report argues that immigration rules could be harnessed in a more productive way.

It notes that the changes to immigration policy have been positive for companies previously familiar with the sponsorship system as it allows them to draw from worldwide talent.

However, for businesses that relied heavily on EU migration through free movement, this new system has appeared “inaccessible, confusing and prohibitively expensive”.

When questioned about this, seven in 10 businesses (70 per cent) found the ability to recruit under the new Rules more difficult (with almost 40 per saying it was much more difficult), even when discounting the impact of COVID-19.

Main recommendations laid out in the report include allowing sponsored permits to be issued for perceived “low skilled” roles which are facing shortages.

To match the requirements of the Skilled Worker route, additional points could be allocated for those applying for jobs with staff shortages.

The report also suggests the Government could implement additional sector-specific, short term work permits, similar to the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, for struggling sectors.

However, it stressed that any aspects of the scheme that could lead to worker exploitation should be diligently managed and well regulated and safeguards should be ingrained including the ability to change employers.

Right to Work Checks, which were shown to deter businesses from engaging with immigration, could also be improved through boosting the quality of the guidance whilst training workshops could also be provided along with a dedicated helpline.

Other recommendations included:

  • Making the operation of sponsor licences less administratively burdensome and legally complex to increase accessibility
  • Amending the Rules to include other nationalities under Tier 5 Youth Mobility, through reciprocal, multilateral arrangements with the relevant countries
  • Reducing the overall cost of a visa application for roles on the shortage occupation list or small businesses with a low turnover
  • Developing a cross-Whitehall skills strategy for sectors particularly impacted by an acute skills shortage (such as hospitality and care sectors) following the introduction of the new Rules

Siobhan Owers, a Partner and Lawyer at Fragomen LLP stated:

While changes to the immigration system introduced earlier this year have been welcomed by business, the perfect storm of Brexit and COVID means that certain sectors are struggling with staffing shortages. A few small changes to the immigration rules could be have a big impact in improving immediate access to labour for those industries.

The concerns of these users of the UK immigration system must be taken on board by government, and we’re hopeful that this report will serve as a starting point for that particular stakeholder engagement.

*This research has been outlined in the APPG on Migration’s Inquiry ‘The Impact of the New Immigration Rules on Employers in the UK’.