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Chris Harber


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Many column inches and interviews over the last few years have been dedicated to the impact that leaving the EU is going to have on British business’s ability to attract and retain talent. There is no question that many businesses and indeed some entire sectors are going to face significant challenges over the next few years, however it’s important to highlight that it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to immigration. Perhaps now more than ever it’s important to not only prepare for the challenges, but to also look to the positives to keep us focused on coming out of the Coronavirus pandemic as strong as possible. 

Leaving the EU has given the government the opportunity to look again at how the whole immigration system works and, broadly speaking, they have done a good job in reforming what was starting to become an outdated system. Probably the biggest changes have come in the new Skilled Worker category, which replaces the old Tier 2 (General) category, where the skill and salary thresholds have been lowered, tradable points have been introduced and the Resident Labour Market Test and annual cap have been removed. These changes mean that there are opportunities for businesses of all sizes, especially in the tech sector, so I’m going to look at three key opportunities.

Firstly, businesses that already have mature global mobility programmes can look again at how to best deploy their talent, and allow more areas of their organisation to benefit from the opportunities that global mobility present. Many tech businesses already make good use of moving their talent around the world, and in the UK rely heavily on the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) category to meet their requirements. The ICT category serves a very specific purpose of facilitating fixed term assignments, however it does have its limitations when it comes to talent retention. Now that two of the main attractions for using this category (removing the RLMT and annual cap from the Skilled Worker category) have disappeared there are even fewer reasons why businesses should feel locked in to relying on the ICT category. With the new Skilled Worker category, businesses can now take a much more strategic view of how their global talent is best utilised in the UK, and put more focus on long term career development.

Secondly, there is now more scope to sponsor individuals that work in lower skilled roles but have a high “value-add” element such as extensive industry experience or a particular skill set that didn’t previously meet the skills threshold. Good examples of these types of roles are aircraft technicians, IT systems administrators, Draughtsman and Graphic Designers. For businesses that have not previously been able to use the immigration system because of the type of work they do this opens new labour markets, especially in sectors where a particular country or region is very good at developing a particular skill set. 

Finally, there are also more opportunities to take on graduates from UK universities and abroad. By lowering the salary threshold, companies are no longer forced into offering higher initial salaries for non-British nationals who require sponsorship to work in the UK than they would normally offer for British graduates, so the range of graduates that you can look to hire has increased. Tradable points also offer flexibility as this allows for even more scope to hire bright young individuals who are at the start of their career and might not be able to command as high a salary as more experienced colleagues. 

To say that the UK’s new immigration system should be hailed as a complete triumph is somewhat wide of the mark, however at a time when businesses are understandably concerned about their ability to attract the right talent, it is important to draw attention to some of the more positive changes that the government have made. 

For further advice on your immigration questions, please contact Chris Harber on [email protected]


Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

 

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