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Following the result of the EU referendum in June 2016, there has been much confusion and uncertainty surrounding the future of EU migrants currently residing in the UK. In 2016, it was estimated that the UK labour market was comprised of 7% EU/EEA nationals. This made up approximately 2.2 million members of the UK workforce.

In order to try and bring a sense of clarity to the future of the UK’s economy, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration (APPG) was recently formed to investigate the effects of leaving the European Union, and in particular the Single Market, would be on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) as well as the public sector in the UK.

In their recent report, the APPG outlined their key findings on the current state of the UK Public Sector and unsurprisingly they found the following:

  • There is a heavy reliance on EU/EEA nationals to fill what is commonly referred to as ‘low skilled’ roles, in many cases resulting in EU/EEA nationals making up over 50% of the workforce in certain sectors such as agriculture.
  • Many employees are being defined as ‘low-skilled’ despite the skills and qualifications required for their roles.
  • Much of the domestic workforce is unwilling to fill ‘low skilled’ roles, due to lower wages, the tough conditions or the perceived unattractiveness of these type of jobs.

The APPG commented “EU free movement has been an important safety valve for UK employers, allowing them to fill vacancies unattractive to the domestic workforce. A system will need to exist to allow employers to meet the labour requirements of these roles that are important for the continuing functionality of the economic sector.

In the light of their findings, the APPG released several recommendations which they hope would influence Government policy on immigration concerning EU citizens. Its recommendations for the Government were:

  • It should review and expand the UK shortage occupation list to more accurately reflect the scarcity of certain skill-sets post-Brexit
  • It should review the reasons the settled workforce are rejecting perceived ‘low-skilled’ roles, and commit to undertaking a positive public relations exercise
  • Where there are acute labour shortages, it should consider a sectoral visa scheme or adaptation of the shortage occupation list, for example, in social care or agriculture
  • It should conduct an in-depth review of the current Points Based Immigration Rules
  • It should clarify its proposals for post-Brexit EU migration in order to provide reassurance to EU nationals and their families as well as businesses and prospective employers
  • Any transition period should allow businesses and employers the opportunity to ‘phase in’ new changes
  • Any proposals for a regional visa should be widely consulted on across the UK, made simple, non-bureaucratic and be designed to address local fluctuations in salary or vacancy needs

It is still very much unclear as to what the Government’s policies will be regarding EU migrants working in the UK. It is clear that EU migrants provide such a vital role in filling ‘low skilled’ occupations. However with no clear solution on how to fill the large labour gap should the doors be shut to EU workers, it is hoped that the UK Government will take the recommendations of the APPG on board when forming future immigration policy to effectively address the concerns of UK businesses.

For further information regarding this topic or any other immigration matters please contact Dhruti Thakrar – Head of Immigration, or any member of the Immigration team.

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