MPs have been debating a number of petitions calling for relaxation of the immigration rules to help support industries experiencing labour and skills shortages.
The debate led Liberal Democrat MP, Tim Farron, has been looking at the idea of a temporary recovery visa for industries experiencing some of the worst labour and skills shortages, most notably hospitality. Other sectors being considered, which had their own petitions, cover care workers, workers in the photographic sector, abattoir and construction workers.
As we highlighted last week, a sector already getting plenty of help is offshore wind. Since 2017 the sector has enjoyed a series of visa concessions with the latest arriving at the last minute on 31 October giving another 6 months. It means employers who rely on it to bring workers into the UK will need to take steps to regularise the immigration status of those workers if they plan to employ them beyond that deadline, assuming no there are more U-turns.
Another sector getting help is poultry. Sky News reports how the list of eligible jobs for a seasonal worker visa has been updated to include poultry workers ahead of the Christmas rush. It means employers can now hire staff from overseas to fill the roles - provided they are paid a minimum of £10.10 an hour and work for at least 30 hours a week. Full details of that scheme, incidentally, are explained in some detail on the NFU’s website.
But the help across sectors is seemingly random so let’s get a view on that from immigration specialist Shara Pledger:
Shara Pledger: “I have to say it's an odd state of affairs, that sort of approach to the seasonal scheme because poultry is a really great example. This country certainly has done previously, and it's going to do so again this year, has welcomed poultry workers into the UK under the seasonal worker scheme for a limited period from sort of mid to late October through into December for the natural reason that we're in the run up to Christmas and we tend to have more turkeys and poultry that need to be killed and prepared in preparation for the sale of that meat. What we don't see, however, is anything that mirrors that in hospitality, and obviously hospitality are really gearing up to one of the busiest points in their year as well, and it's a sector that is really struggling post-Brexit. So chef's, people with senior positions within hospitality organisations, floor managers for example, conference managers, those kinds of roles are all deemed suitable for sponsorship. Since you start to scale that back to the more sort of rank and file, if you like, of the hospitality industry, so waiters and other serving staff, chamber staff within hotels, for example, none of those roles are classed as being suitable for sponsorship in the UK and there's really no acknowledgement from the Home Office that organisations are struggling to recruit for them, and that they're coming up to a really busy time and certainly a conversation that I had with a prospective client a couple of weeks ago, the conversation is very much of you know, it's all very well and good us trying to sort of inject money into the economy and encourage people to go back out, but there may not be a hospitality sector that's there waiting for them when we get back to that position if they're not given some sort of support but, at the moment, it's just not forthcoming.”
Joe Glavina: “It’s striking offshore wind has been getting concessions since 2017, and another one announced just recently, whereas other sectors barely get a look in.”
Shara Pledger: “I think wind workers are a really interesting sector to keep an eye on because that energy sector, and the value of the pressure that they have put on the Home Office, has been a good indicator of whether or not it's possible to achieve something better in your sector by remaining that engaged. You know, the concession that we have for offshore wind workers is obviously very contained and it relates to a very particular type of worker in a very particular type of industry but I think there are sort of transferable points there really in terms of the engagement that the energy sector, and indeed the shipping sector, is continuing to have with the Home Office in relation to these issues. So raising with them the concerns they have about how sponsorship might operate is really a little ray of light, I think, for perhaps other struggling sectors such as hospitality that if they continue to apply that pressure and try and work with the Home Office to find some kind of solution, perhaps we might see something that's a bit more pragmatic than the very rigid rules that we currently operate.”
Last week Shara talked to this programme about the help the offshore wind sector has been getting – another 6 month extension of their temporary visa scheme which was renewed at the last minute on 31 October as the previous deadline was about to expire. Shara explains what it means for those employers who had relied on the Home Office statement back in June that there would be no more extensions, and had spent a lot of time and money getting visas arranged. That’s: ‘Offshore wind workers concession extended until 30 April 2023’ and we’ve put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.
- Link to HRNews programme: ‘Offshore wind workers concession extended until 30 April 2023’