A recent survey of more than 1,000 UK SMEs has revealed that managers are concerned about the post-Brexit immigration laws for foreign workers proposed by the government.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) report found that 25% of their members employed overseas workers, many of whom came from EU countries for whom they had never had to acquire work visas.
Crucially, the new rules, possibly based on an Australian-style “points system”, outlined in the Conservative Party manifesto in December, will affect sectors employing a high proportion of EU nationals, such as hospitality, social care, healthcare, retail, food production and construction.
Employers are also concerned about the impact the new rules may have on high-skilled workers currently covered by the Tier 2 system when recruiting non-EEA workers and fear that new rules and caps may apply to Tier 2 workers. Currently, acquiring a Tier 2 Visa costs around £3,000 and SMEs are keen to keep this below £1,000 under any new system.
Although employers in lower-skilled sectors are concerned, especially since the Migration and Advisory Committee suggested there had been a large increase in EEA migrant workers over the past 15 years, SMEs recruiting higher-skilled workers are also likely to be affected.
The government’s own interim report on EEA workers in the UK found that most UK employers were recruiting them because they had skills that are scarce amongst the UK-born workforce and they were thought to be more motivated.
Technology skills are highly prized in the modern economy and being familiar with shortcuts to transferring information from one format to another is an example of the kind of knowledge that employers are looking for. For example, being familiar with software which converts PDF to Excel, found online at sites such as PDF tables, will show an employer that your skills are potentially a match for their organisation.
Although much of the attention on migrant workers has focused on low-skilled workers, the FSB report suggests that almost two thirds of them are seen as possessing medium to high skills, and the cost of recruitment remains a major concern for many sectors.
The FSB also called for incentives to recruit workers outside of the South East, and the creation of a dedicated social care visa, since this is one of the sectors reliant on recruiting overseas workers.