Prime Minister Theresa May declared low-skilled migration would decrease when free movement is ushered out by Brexit next year. She said high-skilled workers would be prioritised regardless of whether their country belongs to the EU.
May asserted the needs of industries reliant on low-skilled labour would be acknowledged but there would not be many exemptions for different sectors, in a BBC Radio 4 interview.
UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls said there were “mounting concerns” for the future of the sector’s workforce, which contains a large proportion of migrants.
She continued: “A system based solely on high skills and high wages will not work for hospitality where we have labour shortages."
Three million people are currently employed in the sector, but UKH said 90% of these roles could not be filled under May’s structure.
Nicholls added: “Operators will rightly be concerned about the potential for increased red tape and bureaucracy for job applicants.”
She continued: “Many hospitality businesses have struggled to find willing British workers and, with changing demographics and low unemployment, we are facing the very real danger of chronic skills shortages."
A large proportion of hospitality employees are young people (around 50%) and a demographic shift means there will be fewer 18 to 24-year-olds in the UK within a few years.
Nicholls said: “UKHospitality has repeatedly flagged that is it illogical to place so much emphasis on the economic worth of individuals, rather than the wider benefits they bring to the UK.”
The organisation said it would press the Government “for a sensible and pragmatic lower-skilled migrant worker route” and a transition period to allow businesses to adapt.
May’s announcement follows recommendations made in a report into migration from European Economic areas (EEA). The publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report received a critical reaction from the industry, with UKH saying the sector needed extra support from foreign workers.