Responding to the immigration points system: what does this mean for hospitality?

UK: Following news that a points-based immigration system is to be introduced 1 January 2021, BHN reached out to figures in the industry to glean their thoughts on the matter.

As stated on the GOV.UK website, the new Immigration Bill will put an end to free movement, giving “top priority to those with the highest skills and greatest talents: scientists, engineers, academics and other highly-skilled workers.”

“We will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route. We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust.”

The policy is no doubt a considerable blow to the hospitality industry, which accounts for over three million jobs as the third largest employer in the UK. In spite of the government’s call for investment in technology, Julie Grieve, CEO and founder of Criton, said: “It is crucial that we continue to access the right talent and diversity of experience. The government needs to urgently review their proposed system before it [has] a catastrophic impact on our sector ability to function and continue to deliver that must needed £72 billion of GVA.”

Sophie Shotton, general manager at Yorebridge House in North Yorkshire, sees the news as an opportunity to correct the stereotype that jobs within the industry are perceived as low-skilled, low-paid and short term. She said: “If we are to attract and retain ‘British’ workers, there needs to be positive publicity and evidence of changes in hospitality jobs. The jobs in this sector need to be seen as respectable, credible, long term careers that young people aspire to.”

“We therefore must invest in more vocational training at school level to demonstrate the changes to the next workforce – something that the Princes Trust have already rolled out successfully in the care industry. By increasing the minimum wage and offering ongoing training and development to keep ‘British’ workers engaged and interested is crucial to staff retention, which will negate the issue of staff turnover.”

Others took to social media to air their views. Robin Sheppard of Bespoke Hotels said: “Suicide is dangerous, and that is what our ban on low skilled migrant workers means we are committing. Speaking personally and not on behalf of my company or the Institute of Hospitality, I am appalled that this bonkers piece of contemptible legislation will immediately breakdown our hospitality industry. Quite simply we can’t fill all our positions with this border control. So now the new world will comprise self-service everything: from make your own bed, to take your own towels.”

Andrew Hollet, general manager at Kettering Park Hotel and Spa, said: “I would like like to invite Priti Patel to join one of my team to do a shift at Kettering Park hotel – any department you like! You will be treated with the utmost respect in order for you to have the chance to recalibrate your words about low skill jobs. These roles aren’t low skill but craft based and require training and experience, not to mention intelligence to do what we do.”

Barry Makin, general manager at The Scotsman Hotel, said: “The issue I have with this situation is the definition of ‘low-skilled’. Some of the hardest working, driven, dedicated, and in my humble opinion ‘skilled’ workers in my team and indeed our industry would fall into this ‘low-skilled’ bracket. Such a shame… sometimes the entry level ‘low-skilled’ workers develop and learn those ‘skills’ on the job and blossom into invaluable leaders and have an inspirational journey to show from it.”

While the decision to reduce the overall levels of migrant workers will unquestionably result in a shortage of labour, the fact that a reduction will be made to the salary threshold of high-skilled workers is held as “advantageous to all industries.” Sasha Lal, consultant and trainee solicitor at Gherson Solicitors, explains: “For the hospitality industry, which cannot fill vacancies from the resident labour market and needs to look further afield, the reduction in the minimum salary (from £30,000 to £25,600) should make hiring migrant workers cheaper.”

“The other big change is the reduction in the skill level that a job needs meet in order to be eligible for an employer to hire a migrant worker. Currently, a job needs to be of degree level or higher. This is due to be reduced to school graduate level, meaning that job roles such as catering and bar managers may fall into the scope of permitted jobs.”

When asked what responsibility must an employer now undertake, Lal said: “Employers should consider obtaining a Sponsorship Licence at the earliest, if they intend to continue to hire future migrants (including EU nationals) as of 1 January 2021. Employers should also ensure that they are up to date with all their policies and procedures, including ensuring that they have the correct Right to Work check on file for all employees and future employees.”

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