by Heather Barrigan
Political Correspondent of ImmiNews, specializing in outreach and the creation of engaging and informative immigration-related content.
The promise to end the free movement of EU citizens to the UK was a cornerstone of the Leave campaign in the run-up to the referendum on EU membership in 2016. The Immigration Act 2020, which has recently received Royal Assent and will come into force on 1st January 2021, carries out this pledge and repeals existing free movement legislation.
Instead, a new points-based immigration regime will be introduced. Under this new immigration system, workers from outside of the UK will have to achieve a minimum of seventy points to obtain a visa to stay and work in the United Kingdom. To gain these points, non-UK residents must showcase several components, including a high level of English language proficiency and a highly-skilled job offer from an approved sponsor, along with many other salary-related conditions.
Across the UK, there is a feeling of doubt and uncertainty regarding these rules, as many people believe it could lead to a “major crisis”. This is due to the following disadvantages that are associated with the new system.
One of the main disadvantages of a points-based immigration system is that it will likely cause widespread staff shortages across various industries. This includes the healthcare sector, which is already under a significant amount of stress amid Covid-19. Given that 13.8% of current staff are overseas nationals, a fall in visa applications from existing and prospective staff could have a detrimental effect on the NHS and care sector.
There are also shortages in various other industries, including a lack of bricklayers and welders, which could result in a decline for the construction sector. The government have commented on these issues in response to the Migration Advisory’s Report on the Shortage Occupations List. Priti Patel’s reply to the report stated that the shortage occupation level will be considered when awarding points. However, due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus, workforce shortages will not be considered immediately, which has caused doubt for many sectors.
Under the new system, non-UK workers must apply for a visa in order to live and work in the country. However, to be eligible, they must able to prove their English skills and show evidence of a skilled job offer from an official sponsor. Low-skilled workers are less likely to be able to achieve the seventy points required.
Those who are not successful may resort to applying for short-term visas such as ‘youth mobility’ or ‘seasonal agriculture’ programmes.
While this may allow them to secure a job, it will not provide a decent standard of living, as they will be exposed to zero-hour contracts and insecure work.
This could lead them to lose their job at any time without any prior warning, and their precarious status means they will be less likely to report unethical employers should anything occur regarding payment or unfair dismissal.
These employment issues will have a direct effect on a wide range of industries, with many employers working with immigration solicitors to get a better understanding of their employee’s rights and status. without the worry of workforce shortages. To avoid the fear of workforce shortages, any businesses that have yet to take action should work quickly to protect staff and retain as many employees as possible. This can be achieved by raising awareness amongst their workforce of the government’s EU Settlement Scheme and supporting their employees in applying for settled status.