Charles Jarrold, CEO of the BPIF, has joined 30 others in signing an open letter to the Home Secretary calling for clarity over immigration rules.
The five largest business organisations in the country, British Chambers of Commerce, CBI, Federation of Small Business, Institute of Directors and MakeUK, and 30 trade associations, have sent the letter to Rt Hon Priti Patel offering help in designing an immigration system that is designed to show that the UK is open for business.
The government had originally said that immigrants would need to earn a £30,000 salary to qualify. It is now indicating the possibility of flexibility in this level. The letter states: “A minimum salary threshold can work if it is set at a level that supports the economy and protects wages.” Printers have frequently used immigrant labour in finishing and other production roles, rarely reaching the £30,000 level.
The organisations, including the British Coatings Federation, want a points system to enable skilled workers entry to the UK, support for temporary visas and a reformed sponsorship process. Industry would be able to help come up with what the economy needs: “a simple, streamlined and affordable system that meets business’ needs of all sizes, sectors and across all UK regions and nations”.
There is acceptance that the current system is not working. “Insight from enterprise can help build a points-based model that provides greater control, whilst providing access to the labour and skills needed to support the economy. And this can go hand in hand with a continued determination to invest in training home grown talent,” it says.
A minimum salary level should be £20,100 and 25% above those of people already doing the job, both protecting existing the wages of existing workers while also enabling shortages in some jobs to be addressed. A points based system for skilled workers will allow smaller businesses to employ the staff they need without the challenges of sponsoring workers.
An extended temporary visa will help integrate overseas workers while also give businesses a longer window before having to hire new staff. The sponsorship system ought to be in place for the first day of operation and should be tested before implementation so that smaller businesses avoid expensive legal advice. “Minor adjustments to the existing non-EU visa route would be insufficient and act as a major barrier to accessing the skills needed to grow the economy,” the organisations warn.
By Gareth Ward