A group of business organisations representing thousands of firms have demanded the next prime minister change proposed post-Brexit immigration plans to avoid worsening “chronic skills and labour shortages”.
The groups, among them business membership organisation London First, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), highlighted a number of issues they have with the government’s immigration white paper.
The white paper, a document which was released in December and sketched out post-Brexit immigration plans, said the new system will let only highly-skilled and skilled workers come to the UK after Brexit.
One of its central measures was a rule that says people will only be able to move to Britain for longer periods if they have secured a job that will pay £30,000 a year or more.
In a letter to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, one of whom will become PM this month, the group of 11 business and education bodies today called for the salary threshold to be lowered from £30,000 to £20,000.
They also requested the government extend a plan to let low-skilled workers move to Britain for one year to help ease the transition for companies that rely on labour from the European Union. The transition period should last two years, the groups said.
However, some have criticised the scheme as workers would not be able to access public funds during the 12 months and could not stay afterwards.
Others said the government was caving in to the business community and not carrying out voters’ wishes to reduce immigration.
Yet employers have said sectors such as retail and care need low-skilled workers to keep going. For instance, over twenty per cent of jobs in retail are paid below £30,000, the business groups said today.
This “highlights the risk in setting the future level too high,” they said, as lower-paying sectors would be starved of workers.
Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said: “A healthy UK economy will need people coming from abroad to contribute at all skill levels, across a wide range of sectors.”
The government white paper said: “Employers have to some extent become reliant on lower skilled workers from the EU for certain jobs.” It said leaving the bloc is a chance to change this.