The UK Commission for Employment and Skills estimates that 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people will be required by 2022 to fill roles in the UK industry. With the Government announcing that there will be no preferential access to EEA workers post Brexit, and with insufficient supply from the domestic labour market, how will the Tech industry plug the talent gap?
If the UK strikes an agreement with the EU, there will be a transitional period which means EEA citizens already in the UK will be able to remain, so fortunately, there will not be a sudden departure overnight.
The transitional period will run from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020. Those who have been in the UK more than 5 years by 31 December 2020, can apply for settled status, which will mean they can continue to live and work in the UK indefinitely.
Those who have been in the UK less than 5 years will be able to apply for pre-settled status, which will allow them to stay in the UK until they acquire the requisite 5 years to apply for settled status.
But what about servicing the Tech Industry’s future growth?
There are many initiatives underway to increase the UK’s domestic talent but the results of these are a long way off. In the interim, Tech companies will be forced to continue to recruit from outside the UK for skilled talent.
This will be made even more difficult with the removal of EEA citizens from a readily accessible talent pool.
The Government has agreed that a new British immigration system should not give any preferential access to EEA citizens and should instead be modelled on the current Tier 2 system. This system involves employers registering as sponsors before employing migrants and imposes onerous reporting duties, and minimum skill and salary levels. The MAC also proposes that the unpopular immigration skills charge, a tax on businesses using migrants from outside the EEA, should be extended to EEA workers, increasing costs for employers.
There is however, some welcome news for businesses, in the MAC’s recommendations. They propose the removal of the Resident Labour Market test and abolition of the cap on visas, which has resulted in thousands of highly skilled IT specialists being denied entry to the UK, despite having job offers. This could make it easier to bring in skilled workers from outside the UK but will involve the current immigration system being radically overhauled.
We are expecting further details on the UK’s future immigration policy to emerge following next weeks’ Conservative party conference, and a White Paper to be published in November.
What if the Government cannot reach a deal with the EU?
All of the above is subject to an agreement being reached with the EU. If a no-deal situation arises, there will be no transitional period and it is highly unlikely that any new immigration system will be ready by March 2019. What can the tech industry do now?
It is sensible to analyse your workforce and identify where recruitment shortages may arise in the future and have a contingency plan. Also:
- Look after your existing staff and make sure they want to stay with you!
- Assist any workers with applying for settled and pre-settled status.
- Consider registering as a sponsor if you are not already registered.
- Budget for additional recruitment costs.
- Make sure that you keep up to date with the constantly changing immigration policy.