Points-based immigration system ‘disastrous for hospitality’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Stricter regime: the new system is being introduced on 1 January 2021
Stricter regime: the new system is being introduced on 1 January 2021

Related tags: Recruitment, Pubs

Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced a new points-based immigration system, which will take effect from 1 January 2021 that has been labelled as “disastrous for hospitality”.

The system will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions, and visas will only be awarded to those who gain enough points.

Patel said it will “end free movement, reassert control of our borders and restore public trust”.

The new system will also expand the skills threshold for skilled workers as those looking to live and work in the UK will now need to be qualified up to A-level or equivalent, rather than degree level under the current system, which the Government claimed will provide greater flexibility and ensure UK business has access to a wide pool of skilled workers.

Patel hailed it as a “historic moment for the whole country” and said the UK will attract “the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential”.

Time to adapt

UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls said the proposals will cut off future growth and expansion as well as deter investment in high streets, which will lead to reduced levels of service for customers and business closures.

She added: “Ruling out a temporary, low-skilled route for migration in just 10 months’ time will be disastrous for the hospitality sector and the British people. Business must be given time to adapt.

“Hospitality is already facing an acute labour shortage, despite investing significantly in skills, training and increasing apprenticeships for the domestic workforce.

“We are facing record low levels of unemployment, a dip in young people entering the labour market and have the highest vacancy levels of any sector.”

She went on to say the announcement failed to recognise hospitality is at the heart of every community in the UK.

Knock-on effect

Nicholls added: “Damaging the hospitality sector will have a knock-on effect for schoolchildren and the elderly who rely on the sector for their meals.

“The Government says it is making allowances for staff in the NHS, but it has totally ignored the catering companies that supply the meals to patients and staff.

“We understand the Government’s desire to deliver on the referendum result and its aim of moving to a skills-based immigration system.”

However, Nicholls said the trade body fully supported the Government’s ambition to upskill the domestic population and provide opportunities for people across the nation.

“These proposals fail to deliver on the Government’s own objective of providing an immigration system that works for the UK’s economy and its people,” the UKH boss added.

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said the new system will present significant challenges for the sector.

She added: "Many pubs rely on workers from overseas, so it is hard to see how they will cope with such fundamental changes coming into effect in just 10 months.

"Pubs will especially struggle with the costs and complexities of becoming a sponsoring employer in order to take on staff from outside the UK.

"The new points-based system should recognise the staff shortages our sector facts, therefore enabling talent coming to the UK to work in pubs by making up points elsewhere.

"We will continue to press our case with the Government to ensure it understands this need so the pub and hospitality sector continues to thrive. It is crucial that, for example, the Youth Mobility Scheme is now expanded to help facilitate this."

British Institute of Innkeeping chief operating officer Steven Alton called the news a blow to the industry.

He said: "People who work in hospitality contribute a huge amount to our economy, and in a time where pubs, bars and restaurants are keeping our high streets and communities alive, we should be supporting them however and wherever we can.

“Hospitality work is not 'low-skilled'. Training and development in our industry is fantastic; career progression is clear, but we rely heavily on labour from overseas and to change this in 10 months will put an incredible amount of pressure on businesses of all sizes.

"We need to have an immigration system that supports the already under-staffed hospitality sector and encourages the growth that we know we can achieve alongside the right business rates reform.”

Related topics: Legislation

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