Government must help recruiters access new unskilled labour sources


Government has been urged to provide recruiters operating in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture and hospitality sectors a new means of accessing unskilled labour should strict curbs on the free movement of labour be imposed following Brexit.

The call follows comments from Chancellor Philip Hammond to the Treasury Select Committee yesterday in which he suggested carve outs would be made to allow highly skilled migrants such as bankers, computer programmers and doctors to work in the UK.

While this may offer comfort to finance, IT and healthcare staffing specialists, employment lawyer Christopher Tutton, partner at law firm Constantine Law, told Recruiter the real resourcing challenge is unlikely to be in relation to highly paid and skilled foreign workers as they are likely to continue to have routes into the UK as they do under the UK’s current Tier 2 visa system.

“The real challenge is for sectors reliant on lower-paid skilled or unskilled labour, particularly construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and leisure and hospitality,” Tutton said.

“The Tier 3 route of entry into the UK was created for unskilled workers, but was discontinued in 2013 as the free movement of people from the EU met the UK’s needs. With curbs on free movement now very likely, recruiters and businesses in these sectors face damaging labour shortages, hence the speculation for a renewed version of Tier 3 to be opened.”

While it remains unclear which roles in particular would be considered skilled or unskilled, Ed Steer, chief executive at Sphere Digital Recruitment, told Recruiter it is vital that interests of the UK’s digital sector is protected.

“The digital and creative sectors are a ‘jewel in the crown’ of the UK’s business interests.

“We have an outstanding global reputation in these areas and our consumer-driven market has a higher spend per capita on ecommerce than any other country in the world. All of this means that foreign companies who build ‘tech’ businesses in Europe tend to launch them out of London where we have the right consumer market and the talent that enables them to grow their European operations here. It is absolutely critical that we negotiate a good deal when we leave Europe so that two things happen.

“Firstly, we want to have access to the single market so that, typically, American businesses continue to launch their European operations from the UK and secondly, we need easy access to talent who are based in Europe, who tech businesses in London need to hire so that they can grow their businesses.”

Meanwhile, the House of Lords EU Committee has today urged that Parliament be “actively” involved in scrutinising forthcoming negotiations on Brexit, including whether recruiters and business can access the single market, as they happen – rather than after decisions have been taken, as proposed by the government.

The Committee also says it would be in the interests of government, Parliament and the public for Parliament to vote on the government’s Brexit negotiation guidelines before Article 50 is triggered by government expected in the first quarter of next year.

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