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Migrant workers opportunities to be limited in new immigration scheme

Published: Monday 28th January 2019

The UK government is mulling over the recommendation of the Migration Advisory Council (MAC) to introduce a minimum salary level of £30,000 for migrant workers. Those looking to work here after Britain leaves the EU, could see their prospects dashed. Many recruiters are concerned about the impact this would have on the lower paid workers within healthcare. Especially when it comes to nursing jobs and carer jobs.

Nurse attends to elderly gentleman in hospital bed

Healthcare recruiters worried about impact on business

A white paper published by Sajid Javid in December 2018 set out the details of the government’s new immigration scheme. Which includes a £30,000 threshold. But, after disagreements in Theresa May’s cabinet, the government recently announced that it was delaying its decision on the policy, prompting Andrew McGeorge, MD of Carestaff Bureau, to comment:

“To deny a vast migrant market would kill the care sector. It’s bad enough as it is.”

Under the current system, based on EU freedom of movement, there are no restrictions on EU workers. After Brexit, that will change and the government wants to introduce a new ‘skills-based’ system.

Migrant family silhouette

The £30k threshold might not be a problem for many sectors that enjoy higher rates of pay. However, McGeorge pointed out, 70% of his agency’s business came from migrant workers. None of whom earned over £30,000 per year working in the lower paid health and social care sectors.

Healthcare recruiters worried about the impact on business

Greg Wood, commercial director at healthcare recruiter Your World Recruitment Group, suggested a threshold of £23k. He felt this would be more appropriate for the healthcare sector. He warns that the NHS would suffer a severe staff shortage without the ability to recruit overseas. Factchecking charity, Full Fact, pointed out that even a junior doctor’s starting salary falls below the £30,000 threshold.

NHS protest boards

What is certain is that a reduction in the social care workforce would have significant implications for the population and wider economy. Families would have to take on more care responsibilities. Some provisions have been made for seasonal agricultural workers with a scheme to run in 2019 “in recognition of the challenges facing that industry”. Many would like to see the same sort of initiative extended to nursing jobs and carer jobs.

Turmoil in government means no decision yet

It’s all a result of the Conservatives 2017 manifesto to cut immigration to sustainable levels in the tens of thousands. A target first set by David Cameron’s coalition government in 2010, but that figure has never been met. Net immigration currently stands at around 244,000 per year.

The delay in a decision by the government is thought to be as a result of disagreements in the Prime Minister’s cabinet. While Theresa May took a hard-line view on the salary threshold, Philip Hammond and business secretary, Greg Clark, contended that a figure of £30k would severely affect healthcare jobs in the NHS and the wider public sector after Brexit. Now, after further consultation and assuming the UK leaves the EU in March next year, the new system is planned to come into effect on 31 December 2020, after a transition period.

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