Business bosses slam government’s ‘skills charge’

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Businesses could face a new charge of £1,000 a year for sourcing skilled staff from non EU countries
Businesses could face a new charge of £1,000 a year for sourcing skilled staff from non EU countries

Related tags Immigration

Business bosses have slammed government plans to charge an annual fee of £1,000 for every skilled worker hired to work in the UK from non-EU countries.

The plan, following a recommendation by the Migration Advisory Committee, could be implemented by the Home Office by next April. The new levy on skilled labour is part of reforms to the main migration route for skilled workers coming to the UK from outside Europe – known as tier 2.

But Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director for employment and skills policy Neil Carberry warned the plan could prevent businesses from sourcing the key talent they needed to thrive.

“Skilled migration is good for the UK, helping to fill skills gaps and supporting firms to trade globally,”​ said Carberry.

“Businesses want to see the tier 2 cap raised not further visa price increases, especially a skills charge, which will only hold them back from accessing the talent they need to grow.” 

‘Accessing talent to grow’

Also, further costly restrictions on temporary transfers of firms’ own staff to carry out projects in the UK “made little sense”,​ he added.

“Companies recognise the importance of upskilling the UK workforce – they are already spending £45bn per year on training – and are set to start paying the new apprenticeship levy from next year.”

Carberry said the phasing in of new salary thresholds, measures to support international students into the labour market and retaining work rights for dependents will be welcomed by many firms.

The CBI was responding to immigration minister James Brokenshire’s support for the new charge, which was needed to “incentivise employers to reduce their reliance on migrant workers and to invest in training and upskilling UK workers”​.

The immigration minister said: “For too long we have had a shortage of workers in certain roles, and in the past it has been too easy for employers to recruit overseas.”

Strong workforce was key

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) withheld comment on the Immigration Skills Charge but said a strong workforce was key to the growth of food and drink manufacturing.

“To secure inward investment and sustainable growth, the food and drink industry must secure a strong workforce and sustainable talent pipeline,”​ a spokeswoman told 

“People are able to enter our industry through many different routes and from a variety backgrounds. We welcome this flexible approach to supporting economic growth. Given the clear need to provide timely solutions and adapt to customer needs, the food and drink industry is reliant on being able to supply resourcing solutions sometimes at short notice.”

That requirement included creating seasonal and short notice placements to meet needs across the UK.

“In some cases a shortage of available solutions creates opportunities for migrant workers to fulfil a range of roles and make a valuable contribution to the industry,”​ said the spokeswoman.

“As responsible employers, food and drink manufacturers recognise their obligations to all employees including our vital migrant and seasonal workers.”

Meanwhile, prices of UK fruit and vegetables could rise​, if growers continued to struggle to find enough seasonal workers to harvest them, the National Farmers Union has warned.

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