The C Word…! 96 days to go to Christmas – have you got enough workers to see out the festive period?
20 September 2022
The UK currently has approximately 1.3 million live job vacancies and a very low rate of unemployment of just 3.8%. Whilst this is impacting all sectors, we know that businesses in the hospitality and leisure, agriculture and food production, manufacturing, logistics and health and social care sectors are feeling the squeeze most acutely.
In response to the staff shortages of 165,000 workers in health and social care, which are now directly adversely impacting quality of care for residents of nursing homes, Health Secretary Steve Barclay MP has indicated that the NHS and local care providers are likely to look to recruit international workers to fill the gaps. Other businesses and sectors are now following suit.
A broader range of businesses are increasingly looking to recruit international workers. Even small independent family business, SMEs and Start-Ups are, like their FTSE 100 counterparts, able to bring in the best talent from around the world to fill vacancies, bring innovation and increase productivity.
We have seen in recent months changes from the Home Office on immigration policy – with a more limited focus on reducing net-migration and new visa routes are now being opened to ensure access to international workers. However, if business need to fill gaps in time for the busy festive period they need to start the process now as it can take time to become registered with the Home Office to sponsor work visas.
Recruitment of international workers can require substantive investment, from identifying candidates to visa charges and relocation costs but many businesses are increasingly seeing the benefit outweighing the cost.
There is a significant increase in enquiries from the hospitality business looking to recruit chefs and restaurant and bar managers, the health and social care sector recruiting care staff, Christmas tree growers, and the agricultural and food production industries, who want to avoid a last minute rush to secure seasonal work visas. However, this only offers a short-term solution rather than providing a stable, long-term work force.
Despite industry wide petitions from a range of sectors to help the staffing crisis, the Home Office does not favour providing sector specific visa routes. Whilst some routes such as the Seasonal Worker route for horticulture, poultry workers and, last year, HGV drivers and pork butchers, have been implemented, the Home Office has made it clear that the provision of such routes will be reduced year on year. A key example being the reduction in available seasonal poultry worker visas to 2,000 visas in 2022 (down from 5,500 in 2021). The Home Office has indicated a preference for industries to focus on improved working conditions and pay to make industries more attractive to the domestic market and to reduce staff turnover. Despite industry petitions, the Home Office does not look likely to introduce any further sector specific routes imminently.
Businesses also want long-term options, not temporary workers for limited periods of 6 months or less. A positive work environment and strong team dynamic is essential for staff retention and provision of only short term visa solutions, whilst useful for acute busy periods, isn’t constructive to this objective.
Additionally, many businesses are unsure how to go about international recruitment. Many businesses are unaware that the UK immigration rules have, following the end of freedom of movement, been relaxed to enable a broader number of jobs to be eligible for visa sponsorship and overall there has been a reduction in the minimum salary required to sponsor an international worker. Whilst securing a visa is still a bigger administrative burden than freedom of movement when hiring EU workers, the UK work visa regime means that employees can only work for the employer that sponsors their visas and also offers employees a long-term route to settle in the UK with their family, meaning businesses can garner positive long-term working arrangements and a loyal workforce.
If you are looking for support to fill your vacancies and recruit international workers you can contact Sacha Wooldridge via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone on 0203 553 4897.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at September 2022.