Commenting on the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations out today, Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD said: 

“Many UK employers will face significant challenges in accessing the skills and labour they need if proposed changes to migration policy by the Migration Advisory Committee are adopted in full or without a significant transition period.

“While the report acknowledges the need for flexibility so employers can access high-skilled workers coming into the UK from the EU, it fails to recognise the balance of skills and labour needed in the UK. 

“It’s very disappointing that the report has largely ignored the importance of a route that will enable employers to continue to access low-skilled workers from the EU. This will provide significant challenges for UK employers, particularly those in key sectors such as retail, hospitality and social care, which are already struggling to find the people and skills they need.  

“The Government should be cautious about making significant policy changes that limit low- and medium-skilled labour when the very modest potential gains are more than likely going to be offset by making it harder for employers to recruit the labour they need and, as the MAC acknowledges, may have unintended consequences for the recruitment of higher-skilled labour.”

Looking at specific recommendations, Willmott comments: 

“Expanding the tier 2 route - in theory making it possible for employers to recruit medium as well as high-skilled EU workers in the future - without lowering the salary threshold from £30,000 will mean that, in practice, employers’ ability to recruit these workers will be significantly limited.

“We welcome the suggestion that the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme could be extended to EU workers to fill low-skilled roles. However, this in itself is unlikely to address significant long-standing labour shortages in key sectors such as retail, hospitality and social care.”

“Taken together, the recommendations look overly bureaucratic and restrictive. Our research consistently shows that employers are recruiting EU workers into low-skilled roles because they can’t recruit UK-born workers into these roles, not in an effort to pay lower wages or avoid training. 

“We hope that the Government continues to listen to the concerns of employers and seeks to create a system that is flexible, cost-effective and user-friendly, and enables organisations to access both the skills and labour they need after Brexit.”

CIPD research shows that the top reason employers recruit migrant workers is because they are unable to find UK born workers to fill low- and medium-skilled roles, not because they can pay lower wages to such workers. 

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