Bodies including UKHospitality (UKH), the British Beer and Pub association (BBPA) and a group of licensees have outlined what they believe is needed in a post-Brexit system.
Many pubs have struggled to recruit kitchen staff from the domestic workforce and rely on workers from overseas to plug this gap, causing concern about what will happen after freedom of movement ends.
The Conservatives want to introduce a new form of the current points-based system which would “decide who comes to this country on the basis of the skills they have and the contribution they can make”.
The party manifesto stated there will be “fewer lower-skilled migrants” but the party said workers in sectors with shortages would be granted short-term visas.
It said most people coming to the UK would need to have a job already lined up.
UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls urged the party to provide more details on how the system would work in practice if it was to begin in 2021.
Open to talent
Nicholls said: “Confirmation that the aspiration remains a migration regime open to talent to meet the needs of the economy is welcome.
“A fair and managed system at all salary and skilled levels, hand in hand with investment in skills and training, is a must.
“This will avoid exacerbating skills shortages, keep the economy at full strength and allow hospitality to continue its work boosting the domestic workforce.”
She added: “The next government must ensure the immigration system is evidence-led and values skills at all levels.”
The organisation also stated an independent Migration Advisory Committee, which considered the needs of the pub sector, would be essential for a successful immigration policy after Brexit.
The Liberal Democrats have proposed to cancel Brexit and retain freedom of movement, alongside introducing a “more flexible merit-based system”.
Labour has said it would ensure immigration policy worked for the needs of the economy and recognised the value of migrant workers to the country but specifics would depend on future Brexit negotiations.
Former pubco operator and founder of a new licensees association, Nick Griffin, said he felt a policy that made having a job offer a condition of entry could be “unrealistic” for independent pubs.
Griffin said: “The additional levels of bureaucracy that may be involved would be unwelcome and a hurdle that would hamper those running our pubs.”
“Without access to a willing and able team many pubs would simply grind to a halt - whether it be trained chefs, waiting staff or bartenders to seasonal workers picking hops and apples to make the beer and cider we all enjoy.”
He said he was worried a points-based system may be detrimental to parts of the pub sector if it did not consider the skills shortages present.
Griffin explained: “While we understand a points-based system is the preferred route of some we hope this isn’t to the detriment of our industry if introduced.
“While it may be headline grabbing, it fundamentally fails to recognise the very real issues faced by some sectors of the economy, and it’s likely this may include our own.
He said: “Any policy needs to be well thought out and considered in approach, hopefully following consultation with representative bodies.”
The BBPA’s members employ 17% of their workforce from overseas, with this number rising to 40% in metropolitan areas.
Emma McClarkin, BBPA chief executive, said: “Pubs are facing a serious skills shortage and clearly need access to talent from abroad.
“It is vital that any future immigration policy recognises this, enabling the Great British Pub to continue to thrive.”