On 19 February 2020, the Government released further information regarding immigration to the UK after Brexit. To counteract the imminent end of free movement of workers from the European Union, the Government will allow UK employers to sponsor migrant workers at lower salaries and skill levels than they currently are permitted.

However, the new rules provide no new provision for visas for those who would be classed as ‘lower-skilled’ workers, i.e. those individuals who would be working in jobs that don’t require A-level qualifications or higher.

For a non-UK national to work and live in the UK from January 2021, the individual will need to be sponsored (as is the case with Tier 2 General, which is for new hires). Under the new proposed rules, the sponsored worker will still need a UK job offer, English language skills and to be working at a certain skill level.

That skill level will be reduced from the current degree specification to A-level. The good news is that the salary threshold is to be reduced to £25,600 from the current minimum of £30,000.

It is likely the Resident Labour Market Test will be abolished as well, and the annual cap on Tier 2 General Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship will be suspended. This will mean that the hiring process should be quicker, as the current Resident Labour Market Test involves a lengthy and document-heavy advertising process, so removing this should ease this administrative burden on potential sponsors.

The above changes are positive steps towards a more inclusive sponsored visa system; however, they make no provision for a visa category for workers who would be classed as ‘lower-skilled’.

This lack of visa category will most certainly have an effect on certain industries such as the care home and cleaning industries and even the medical profession, as currently a large proportion of European migrants make up a significant percentage of their respective workforces.

Should these changes come into effect (thereby removing a ‘lower-skilled’ workforce), having no access to this talent pool will mean these industries will need to reassess their recruitment practices and aim to hire from the available job pool of UK nationals or those European migrants already in the UK (who will need to hold either pre-settled or settled status by June 2021). The Government has said that it wishes for UK businesses to look closer to home when hiring (and the lack of access to immediate European talent will ensure this happens).

Looking ahead, as the current sponsorship system will remain in place, should businesses wish to sponsor individuals under the new system, we strongly recommend applying for a UK Sponsor Licence.

If you have any question about how this could impact your business, please contact Nicola Richards using the details below.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.