The UK’s new immigration rules must be relaxed to allow more foreign workers in to ease labour shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, a leading employers group has warned.
Since Covid restrictions began easing earlier this year, companies have complained increasingly about a lack of workers – especially in hospitality, food processing and logistics – which has led to gaps on supermarket shelves and restaurant closures. A shortage of truck drivers has forced some employers to offer signing-on and retention bonuses of up to £5,000, and official data shows a record number of job vacancies.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said drivers, welders, butchers and bricklayers should be classed as shortage occupations for immigration purposes. This would provide easier access to visas, and also allow employers to pay salaries below thresholds for migrant workers under the UK’s new migration system.
The government has called on employers to train more British people to fill their vacancies, but the CBI said that would take up to two years. It added that the pandemic and uncertainty about precise immigration rules had made it hard to prepare for the end of free movement for most EU workers from the start of this year.
“The government promised an immigration system that would focus on the skills we need rather than unrestrained access to overseas labour,” CBI director-genral Tony Danker said. “Yet here we have obvious and short-term skilled need but a system that can’t seem to respond.”
The CBI said government has also failed to follow official advice on which jobs should qualify for shortage status, while rules on what kinds of training qualifies for support under a government apprenticeship scheme are also too restrictive.
The UK Government has been reluctant to ease its immigration rules. Last month the business ministry rejected a call from retailers and logistics firms for an exemption for truck drivers, and said the industry should improve pay and conditions instead.
The CBI said it did not expect the end of the government’s furlough programme on September 30 – when several hundred thousand private-sector workers are likely to become unemployed – would make it significantly easier for companies to find staff.
Weekend footfall helps Glasgow improve city centre performance
Glaswegians are coming back to their city centre to shop, eat, and have a good time when the working week is over.
Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said weekend business in Glasgow was back up at two-thirds of where it was in February 2020. However, the data is still “truly awful” during the working week.
Ayrshire coffee bar firm baking up growth plan
When Gordon Rennie found a derelict pub in Irvine Harbour, he knew he’d found his dream coffee bar venture. But others advised him against it.
“They said no-one will come here to this derelict harbourside,” he said.
“I can show you the surveyor report saying, do not buy this old pub. This is a disaster. No one wants it. It’s worth nothing and no one will come here.”
If you have been forwarded this article and would like to sign up, or view our new range of newsletters, click below: