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UK’s Proposed Work Immigration Changes and Their Impact on Businesses

Date Posted: 20 December, 2023

Newly-proposed alterations to work immigration regulations by the government are anticipated to pose substantial challenges for recruiters and employers, according to immigration lawyers –  Recruiter reports.

Recently, the UK Home Secretary unveiled a five-point plan designed to restrict work migration to the UK, set to take effect in spring 2024. The changes aim to achieve the most significant ever reduction in net migration and deter misuse of the immigration system. The five-point plan comprises:

  1. Elevating the minimum general salary for occupations under the Skilled Worker route from £26.2k to £38.7k, marking a 47.7% increase. Health and social care visa workers will be exempt from this adjustment. Sectors like hospitality, relying on lower minimum salaries, may face the necessity of cutting positions to meet the heightened salary levels.
  2. Prohibiting care workers from bringing dependents to the UK, despite recommendations by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and acknowledgment of a shortage in the adult social care sector.
  3. Eliminating the 20% discount of the going rate salary level for occupations on the Shortage Occupation List, replaced by a condensed ‘Immigration Salary List’ retaining a general threshold discount.
  4. Imposing an increased financial requirement for family applications, with British or settled individuals required to earn a minimum of £38.7k, up from £18.6k (an increase of over 100%).
  5. Reviewing the graduate route to ensure its effectiveness for the UK.

These measures are introduced with the deliberate intention of reducing net migration levels, making it costlier for both employers and foreign nationals to immigrate to the UK. Additionally, the plan aims to bolster the domestic workforce through its ‘Back to Work Plan,’ focusing on helping UK nationals transition from benefits to employment.

Anticipated to cause significant challenges for recruiters and employers still adapting to post-Brexit labour shortages, these changes may hinder labour sector growth and reduce business and migration contributions to the UK GDP.

As businesses grapple with these impending alterations, it is crucial to:

  1. Review roles and salary bands that could be affected.
  2. Seek headcount approval now to expedite moves requiring sponsorship before the changes.
  3. Explore alternative non-sponsored visa routes where possible, such as the Youth Mobility Scheme or Ancestry visas.
  4. Assess options to recruit for impacted roles from the UK settled workforce.
  5. Communicate the impact and proposed workforce plans to key stakeholders, including the board, current sponsored population, recruiters, graduate recruitment, talent, and reward teams.

While this announcement seems to be a politically motivated response to high net migration figures and a longstanding government desire to significantly lower entry numbers, there is a genuine risk that these changes, coupled with the recent significant increase in government application fees, may inflict lasting damage on the attractiveness of the UK for businesses and top-tier individuals.

What strategies do you think businesses should adopt to navigate these upcoming changes effectively?