Comment by Alan Price, Employment Law Director at Peninsula, the UK’s leading HR and employment law consultancy
The committee’s recommendation to remove the preferential treatment EEA workers have regarding rights to work in the UK compared to non-EEA workers, dependent on how Brexit is arranged, may be seen as a common-sense approach. For all employers who are recruiting candidates, their recruitment decision should always be focused on the individual’s skills, experience and qualifications and how these match the requirements of the job role; rather than the country they originate from. Having one central set of rules to apply to all non-British workers will also improve certainty and make the rules clearer for employers, who can feel that they struggle with the complexity around recruitment of migrant workers or feel confused about which scheme applies to which candidate.
Turning to the current migration rules in place, the committee proposes that the existing Tier 2 (General) scheme is maintained but is changed to increase the number of workers the visa scheme applies to. An additional change recommended by the committee is that the requirement for employers to prove that no settled worker can fill a vacancy, before employing a migrant worker, is either removed or retained and relaxed. A removal or relaxation would release the administrative, and financial burden, placed on employers through the requirement to advertise a job vacancy within the UK for a four-week period, unless the role is currently classed as exempt from this requirement.
Perhaps concerning for employers in certain sectors, the committee have recommended that there does not need to a scheme introduced for lower-skilled migrant workers, with the exception of a sector-specific scheme for seasonal agricultural workers. This is because the committee envisage that current low skilled workers will remain working in the UK after Brexit, or new workers will come into the UK through family migration or the existing youth mobility scheme. Employers operating in sectors which rely on a significant number of low-skilled EEA workers may feel that they will struggle to secure sufficient numbers of staff after Brexit, with many already reviewing their current workforces and setting recruitment plans in place to avoid staff shortages.