Chamber campaigns for employment system changes for EU nationals

Author - Jasmin Brown

Date published:

North East England Chamber of Commerce has asked Government to urgently address problems created by the points based system for employing EU nationals since Brexit. 

The challenges facing businesses are several-fold including the cost of applying to recruit someone, the salary threshold of £25,600 being too high and the time it takes due to the complexity of the process. 

Niamh Corcoran said: “Six months from us leaving the EU we are hearing worrying anecdotal evidence from our members about substantial challenges in finding the right staff.  As the economy gradually reopens and North East businesses look towards growth, it is vital that they are able to recruit the talent they need.  Our region has emerging skills shortages in key sectors like tech, pharma and hospitality. 

“Whilst many firms are working hard to grow their businesses historically the higher than average regional employment rates for EU migrants in the North East highlights that there is strong demand for international labour which the existing local working age population cannot fulfil.” 

Chamber member Ward Hadaway’s Partner Roisin Patton agrees. She said: “We have a dedicated immigration team at Ward Hadaway LLP and requests for advice on the new points-based immigration system have increased significantly since its implementation in January 2021. 

 “We have a number of clients that have experienced difficulty as a result of the new system. One client has had particular difficulty in recruiting short-term labour from Europe where the specific skill set required for a significant UK construction contract did not exist in the UK. Timings for visa applications and the language requirement caused great difficulty and the inability to recruit quickly has had an impact on a major construction project in the UK.  

“Other clients in the leisure sector have reported the effects of the new system on their recruitment. In this sector many UK businesses rely on seasonal workers from Europe which for many roles will no longer be possible as they are not at the sufficient skills level. This has come at a time of increased demand for leisure sector roles due to the increase in UK holiday bookings this year.  

“Clients are also concerned about the sponsor obligations and strict compliance rules placed upon them when they sponsor an individual under the new system. This combined with the cost and complexity of recruitment under the points-based system is already acting as a deterrent to recruiting beyond the UK. In our view this is creating an underlying risk of discrimination claims for UK employers.”  

The Chamber letter asks Government specifically to link salary thresholds to regional, not national salaries, embed flexibility into sponsorship of EU workers to allow third parties such as recruitment agencies to do it and broaden shortage occupation list to include regional skills gaps. 

To allow for fluctuations in the labour marketing the Chamber also suggests flexibility in the scheme is introduced so companies can react to changing demands from the marketplace that require additional staff. 

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