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UK announces new points based immigration system

by Charlotte Anderson | Feb 19, 2020

On Wednesday 19th February, the government announced its plans to take “full control” of British borders “for the first time in decades.” The new points-based system is similar to the Australian model and places a heavy emphasis on attracting skilled workers. This will significantly impact the hospitality sector’s ability to hire waiting staff from outside the UK as the position has been removed from the list of ‘skilled occupations.’

The government has indicated therefore, that the pool of unskilled workers already in the UK, including the 3.2 million from the EU Settlement Scheme, should provide employers enough flexibility in the labour market.

For skilled workers, the salary threshold has been reduced from £30,000 to £25,600, which remains much higher than the average salary for chefs. Those earning less than £25,600 but over £20,480 can apply for visas in “specific shortage occupations.” This list will be kept under review by the MAC, which means there is still some potential for flexibility in this area.

Following the publication of the policy paper, industry leaders immediately accused the government of an assault on the economy, warning of “disastrous” consequences with job losses and closures in factories and the high street.

Ministers argue they are delivering the Brexit demanded by the electorate.

The hospitality sector will feel the impact of the new system acutely. The Confederation of British Industry director general Carolyn Fairbairn said, “with already low unemployment, firms in care, construction, hospitality and food and drink could be most affected.”

The hospitality sector will be hit will also be hit with a “no barista vista” for coffee shops, despite warnings from the likes of Pret A Manger who have warned that only in 50 job applicants were British.

Special arrangements are being made for seasonal workers who harvest the fields, but this is only set at 10,000 places, far below the National Farmer’s Union’s demands for temporary visas for 70,000 in 2021.

The new system marks one of the greatest interruptions to the hospitality sector in decades and leaves us with more questions than answers: will the price of food go up? Will the cost of staff go up? And, are waiting staff really unskilled? Or do we need to change the rhetoric around roles in hospitality and the perception that low paid and low skilled are synonymous.  


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