The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has responded to the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report on EEA migration in the UK and it’s not happy with its findings where SMEs are concerned. Anna Tobin reports
Among the recommendations of the MAC report was for Tier 2 migration opportunities to be opened up to all jobs at RQF3 and above; to abolish the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2; to maintain existing salary thresholds for all migrants in Tier 2; preferential treatment for highly-skilled workers; and, in the event of immigration not forming part of the EU negotiations, to end preferential access for EU citizens.
Responding to the report, Mike Cherry, the chairman of the FSB said: “The MAC’s report is deeply concerning for the small business community. Twenty one percent of small businesses in the UK employ someone from the EU and yet they will be the ones hit the hardest by the huge added costs and administrative burdens of the proposals outlined in the MAC’s report.
“Our research shows that 95% of small employers have never made use of the UK’s points-based immigration system to meet their business’ labour and skills needs. This is because of the costs and complexity of the system. Simply expanding the Tier 2 general route to include EEA citizens will hurt small businesses, the wider economy, and productivity. The damage will be worse for those businesses that work in sectors like hospitality, retail, and care that are already facing chronic skills shortages.
“Small businesses will be pleased to see the suggestion that focus should be given to mid-skilled workers, but disappointed not to see a concerted action plan around them. While access to high-skilled labour is vital to the UK’s small businesses, even more important to them are those who are mid-skilled – such as mechanics, care workers, office administrators.
“Nearly half of those that currently employ EU citizens employ mid-skilled workers, and this key group has been broadly missing from the debate that has been polarised into high and low skills. The MAC report’s proposal for a salary cap of £30,000 risks locking out mid-skilled migrants, particularly in regions beyond London and the South East. We are also concerned about the suggestion of extending the immigration surcharge to EEA workers. Our evidence shows this would have a hugely damaging effect on smaller businesses ability to meet their skills and labour shortages.
“We need to see specific support not just for workers, but for entrepreneurs who must be able to come to the UK and start businesses that contribute to our economy and create jobs here. The current Tier 1 needs substantial reform to cater for the UK’s vibrant community of self-employed EU citizens.”