Migration reform ‘needs to go further’ to support hospitality

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Calls for change: UKHospitality (UKH) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said more chef jobs should be recognised in immigration policy
Calls for change: UKHospitality (UKH) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said more chef jobs should be recognised in immigration policy

Related tags: Immigration, brexit

Recommendations to relax migration restrictions for jobs with skills shortages would not do enough to help the hospitality sector, trade bodies have claimed.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has called for more occupations to be listed among those exempt from a number of restrictions on workers from outside the European Economic Area.

What does being on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) mean?

  • Businesses are not required to advertise the job to UK workers
  • There is no requirement to meet a £35,800 per annum salary threshold for settlement after five years
  • Workers can pay lower visa application fees
  • Jobs on the list are given priority if the skilled labour cap of 20,700 is reached

Inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) means fewer requirements and lower fees for individuals looking to move, as well as it being easier for businesses to hire overseas workers.

Jobs the committee argued should be added to the list include speech and language therapists, web designers,and architects.

Suggestions in its report would mean around 9% of jobs in the labour market were on the list, compared to 1% currently included. 

Calls to extend list

Hospitality trade bodies UKHospitality (UKH) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) have called for the list to include lower-skilled chef occupations.

They have also called on the Government to lower a £30,000 per annum salary threshold for ‘high-skilled’ non-EEA migrants applying for a Tier 2 visa to help plug the sector’s shortages.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, commented: “The BBPA are disappointed that the Shortage Occupation List hasn’t been extended to lower-skilled chef occupations, such as chef, chef de partie and kitchen porters. We will continue to make the case for their inclusion.

“Additionally we are calling on the Government to use the Immigration Bill to set a lower salary threshold, less than £30,000, for Tier 2 migrant workers.

"This will help the pub sector recruit the chefs it so desperately needs."

Takeaway chefs added

The MAC recommended removing a restriction on chef visas, which excludes chefs working at businesses with takeaway services, a move welcomed by UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.

“Removing the punitive takeaway clause is a positive step and one we called for in our response earlier this year," she explained. 

“This reflects the increasingly diverse nature of the UK’s culinary sector and the move to more app-based deliveries. It also helps restaurants that have recently struggled to fill vacancies, particularly those offering authentic Indian, Bangladeshi and Chinese food, among others.

'Let sector thrive'

However, Nicholls added that she felt the recommendations did not go far enough.

She said: “The MAC needs to go further and abolish the salary threshold which limits our ability to deal with staffing shortages.

“Any future immigration policy needs to be fit for purpose, beneficial to the UK economy, and allow our sector to grow and thrive.

“We will be making these points to ministers and future leadership candidates in the coming weeks and months.”

The committee said there must be a "full review" of arrangements for sectors facing workforce shortages when a post-Brexit immigration system has been confirmed.

Prime Minister Theresa May previously proposed a system where all workers would be prioritised by skillset​ regardless of EU status.

Related topics: Chefs, Legislation

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