MAC’s proposed cap on non-EU workers will harm UK businesses

The Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC’s) “Statement of Intent” to limit the number of non-EU workers in the UK will be detrimental to many British businesses which rely increasingly on the skills of an overseas workforce.

The Home Office has already shut down numerous routes for non-EU migrants entering or remaining in the UK for work. In 2011 it closed the “Highly Skilled Migrant” route and the “Post Study Work” route, which allowed employment and self-employment, and dramatically changed who qualified as a “sponsored worker.”

The expected latest set of MAC proposals – including raising minimum salaries and introducing a skills levy, as well as restricting job vacancies for non-EU workers to certain specialisms or sectors – will leave many companies struggling to afford administration costs and will resort in firms using lower skilled workers.

The latest ONS figures showed that the amount of non-EU citizens entering the UK actually accounts for less of the overall net migration. It seems short-sighted to limit one of the only groups that can be controlled yet is so greatly relied upon. 

Unlike EU workers, who can move freely between EU countries under European law, unless intra-company transfers; jobs have to be advertised to settled workers first before offering them to non-EU professionals and sponsored workers have to be in the UK for five consecutive years and have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) before they can settle or claim public funds or benefits. The number of sponsored workers who can qualify for ILR has been dramatically cut since 2010.

I would advise companies that rely on non-EU workers to advertise jobs locally and submit sponsorship applications soon before changes are enforced on 6 April. 

Licence renewals are expected to be more complex so forecasting vacancies and planning financially can help for applications, should skills not be found within the UK.

Finally, compliance checks will likely increase so I would also advise companies to review record-keeping to ensure it complies with the Prevention of Illegal Working checks and Sponsor Duties for licence holders.

Jonathan Beech is the MD of Migrate UK.

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