New immigration rules: Transformation or Points Based Reload?

25th February 2020

With the Government’s announcement of its new points-based system for EU workers comes a strong degree of anxiety – for individuals and businesses alike, and particularly the care and hospitality sectors.

The reality is that the UK has had a “points based system” since 2008. The difference is that as from 1 January 2021, a modified points based system will apply to both non EU Nationals and EU Nationals alike.  The Government’s policy announcement states that the new rules will:- “transform the way in which all migrants come to the UK” however, is this really the case? The new rules will effectively confirm the end of free movement for EU Nationals however the other proposals are not in themselves new. The biggest change will be the inclusion of EU Nationals in this framework.

There are however some changes to the system for workers with a job offer, including lowering the existing skill and salary thresholds as well as, scrapping the labour market test and suspending the cap on numbers of applicants. Importantly however, lower skilled jobs will not be eligible and this has caused significant concern in some sectors. The Government has, begrudgingly, heeded calls from the NFU to extend the seasonal workers’ pilot that will allow for an increase of labourers from 2,500 to 10,000 which will ease concerns in this sector. However, in the social care sector there are real concerns that the new regime will leave a huge gap in the already understaffed social care workforce.

In response to employers’ concerns about labour shortages in certain sectors, the Government simply states that employers will just have to get used to the new regime and concentrate on training and investment in local staff, as well as technology and automation. This is clearly a broad brush response which cannot be applied to all sectors and will not allay fears for example in the social care and hospitality sectors. It is likely that smaller businesses in particular may struggle to cope with the additional administration and the additional costs involved in hiring staff under this system.

With less than 12 months to go before the ‘new’ points based system is due to be implemented, it remains to be seen if businesses can adapt, as the Government suggests, or whether the reality is that the system does not meet the demands of employers in 2021 and beyond.

Speak to our experts if you need legal advice on the new immigration rules and points based system.

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