[UK] Call For Lower Visa Salary Threshold After Brexit Welcomed By Employers

The government’s migration advisers have said the UK should lower the salary threshold for migrants seeking a move to the UK after Brexit to £25,600People Management summarises the MAC’s report and responses to its recommendations.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended that the threshold be reduced from the current level of £30,000 in a report published at the end of January. This would make it easier for employers hoping to import talent from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). However, it would still be a major new barrier for those employing Europeans. (Link via original reporting)

The MAC did not recommend implementing different sectoral or regional salary thresholds, a suggestion which some think could encourage talent from abroad to move to regions beyond London and the south-east and help close the economic gap between the north and south.

The report did not recommend lower thresholds for shortage occupations.

The MAC’s report was broadly welcomed by employer groups. Gerwyn Davies - senior labour market analyst at the CIPD - said it would give “mild, temporary relief for many employers concerned about the new immigration system”.

Mr Davies added that many employers would be relieved to see the lower minimum salary threshold and a lack of regional variation, which would have “added complexity to a system many already feel daunted by”, but that public sector employers in particular, who lack the ability to raise wages in response to labour shortages, would be disappointed by the lack of support for lower thresholds for shortage occupations.

“With this in mind, employers will be keen to see the temporary one-year visa extended to two years when the government makes its final policy announcement in spring,” Mr Davies said. “In the meantime, the important thing for employers is to get up to speed with the new system fast.”

Chetal Patel - partner at Bates Wells - said it was “disappointing” that the MAC did not recommend regional variations, “The harsh reality remains that some jobs in the north of England can’t attract the salary for the same job in London. That begs the question, how much difference will a reduction of £4,400 really make?”

The MAC also made recommendations on how an Australian-style points-based immigration system might work in the UK, at the government’s request. Something home secretary Priti Patel has previously pledged to roll out after the UK leaves the EU. (Link via original reporting)

It recommended any points-based system should be based on the current Tier 1 exceptional talent route, which already exists for migrants looking to move to the UK before securing a job. It also said points should be awarded based on characteristics including qualifications, age and STEM or creative skills, with candidates who have expressed interest being drawn monthly from a pool and invited to apply.

The report said the bar was set too high under the current Tier 1 system and was too risk-averse, targeting only those at the very top of their field. The report noted that the number of applications for this visa fell consistently short of the cap. Criticism echoed by critics of the new global talent route for scientists and researchers announced by the Home Office earlier this week.

The MAC also said an employer-sponsored system like the Tier 2 visa should be kept alongside any points-based system.

Ms Patel said it was no surprise that the MAC recommended modifying the Tier 1 visa route, “Having an expression of interest basis would see that only those individuals who were highly motivated to use this route would register their interest, which on the face of it seems like a good thing.”

Jonathan Beech - managing director of Migrate UK - said some sectors would definitely fare better under the recommendations than others. He said the construction sector would benefit from including a number of job roles in a proposal to lower the skill level necessary to apply for vacancies: including carpenters, joiners and window fitters. Hospitality would reportedly be unlikely to benefit, the salary threshold of £25,600 is still high for the sector.

Mr Beech said, “It’s important to note that migrants still need to be offered at least the ‘going rate’ for the vacancy they’re taking and the figure should be the higher of these two parameters - either £25,600 or the going rate.”

Danny Mortimer - co-convenor of the Cavendish Coalition and chief executive of NHS Employers - warned that the proposals didn’t go far enough to address the workforce crisis in the social care sector. He said, “If social care is unable to recruit from overseas, the sector will simply not be able to meet the growth in demand, leading to significant implications for the health and wealth of the nation.

“The focus on an Australian-style, points-based system offers scope to tackle workforce challenges, which could complement domestic supply efforts. We are confident that the NHS is firmly in the government’s considerations, but need an equal if not greater acknowledgement of the requirements for overseas colleagues to work in social care.”

The government is expected to publish its next immigration white paper in March. “It’s important to remember that the MAC’s recommendations are just that - recommendations,” said Ms Patel. “The government doesn’t need to take on board all of the recommendations and we know from the past that this does happen.”