Election pledges on immigration 'must reflect pub needs'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Election commitments: trade bodies have urged parties to consider the needs of the pub sector in immigration proposals
Election commitments: trade bodies have urged parties to consider the needs of the pub sector in immigration proposals

Related tags: Immigration

Trade bodies have urged political parties to consider the pub sector’s skills shortage in their manifesto pledges on immigration.

Pleas from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and UKHospitality follow the Conservative Party's commitment to introduce a points-based immigration system to make it easier for doctors and nurses from abroad to work in the UK. 

The party has proposed a post-Brexit system to award migrants points based on age, English literacy and work experience.

It means that some migrants will be able to arrive in the UK without a job offer, with the Government deciding who is admitted rather than employers.

Trade organisations have urged parties to consider the pub industry’s dependency on workers from abroad to fill shortages, particularly in back-of-house roles.

Access to talent

Although there have been several domestic initiatives launched to encourage a new generation into the industry's workforce, pub bosses need to be able to hire non-UK workers easily to plug the gap.

Andy Tighe, policy director of the BBPA, said its members employed 17% of their total workforce from overseas, with the figure rising to 40% in metropolitan areas.

Additionally, some 80% of chefs and kitchen staff employed by the BBPA’s members come from overseas.

Tighe added: “Pubs are facing a serious skills shortage and clearly need access to talent from abroad. It is vital then that any post-Brexit, points-based immigration system recognises this.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive at UKHospitality added that the Conservatives’ proposed system would need to accommodate the needs of the sector.

She said: “The majority of the hospitality workforce is home-grown and our businesses devote significant amounts of energy and money into training their domestic workforce. 

“Hospitality employers do, however, need to hire non-UK workers to boost their teams and fill hard-to-fill vacancies.

Flexibility needed

Nicholls added: “A points-based system has the potential to deliver a positive outcome for hospitality but it needs to be designed with a flexible approach. 

“Attracting enthusiastic, skilled and hard-working people is vital to our sector and any new arrangements must reflect the needs of hospitality, which is this country’s third largest employer.”

Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the Conservatives' proposal lacked details and that the party was “tying themselves in knots over immigration”.

She said: “They use dog whistle anti-migrant rhetoric but are forced to accept we need migrant workers for key sectors, not just the NHS, but many more besides.

“This policy is full of holes, with nothing to say about the nurses earning below their income threshold, as well as all the cooks, cleaners, hospital porters and others who are vital to hospitals, and nothing at all about their right to bring family members here.”

The Labour party is yet to make an announcement on its immigration proposals although its party conference voted against a system which rated migrants on their income and usefulness to employers.

Related topics: Legislation

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