Tougher rules for employers to access migrant workers if they fail to invest in UK training

New IPPR calls on Government to set up a Trusted Sponsor Scheme for employers

The government should use Brexit as an opportunity to rethink its approach to skills using migration policy, according to a new report from the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, published today. The IPPR report recommends that employers who invest in the skills of workers in the UK should receive additional visa advantages when employing migrant workers, and those who do not should pay a higher skills charge.

The new IPPR report shows how the UK’s immigration strategy could forge a new partnership between employers and government, as a means to achieving a high-pay, high-productivity economy. To this end IPPR propose the introduction of a Trusted Sponsor System for employers who seek to recruit skilled workers internationally.

The Trusted Sponsor System would operate alongside the current Tier 2 sponsor license and offer employers additional visa advantages in return for a commitment to responsible recruitment and employment practices, supporting the integration of sponsored employees, and investing in the domestic skills base.

To qualify for the scheme, employers should be able to demonstrate:

  • That they pay the national living wage to all employees
  • A commitment to investing in training (e.g. via apprenticeships, traineeships or paid internships)
  • A commitment to taking responsibility for supporting the integration of migrant workers (e.g. offering English lessons in the work place).

Employers who participate in the scheme would be eligible for additional visa advantages. These could include: visa fast-tracking; a reduced Immigration Skills Charge; and a lower salary threshold of £20,800 per annum.

The Immigration Skills Charge for Employers who do not meet the requirements of the Trusted Sponsor Scheme should double (from £1000 to £2000 annually) per Tier 2 migrant employee.

The report also calls for a less centralised immigration system to give the UK’s nations and regions the control they need to address labour and demographic challenges. IPPR’s analysis of the latest ONS net migration statistics shows that net international migration of EU citizens to Wales, the North West, the North East and the South West is now effectively zero, compared to around 20,000 in London and the South East. Since the referendum, falls in EU net migration have been greater in some parts of the country, with the North West, London and the South West seeing some of the biggest drops.

IPPR’s work shows that current visa rules do little to ensure that skilled migrants move to the parts of the UK that need them the most. This is because the system is largely predicated on salary thresholds.  IPPR therefore recommends a sub-state system that gives nations and regions greater power over immigration policy. It proposes a series of reforms including giving nations and regions the power to set lower salary thresholds for non-EU migrants applying for Tier 2 visas and to relax rules for post-study work for international students.

As previous IPPR work has shown UK employers’ investment in training per employee has fallen by more than 10% since 2007 and employer investment in continual vocational training is half the EU average. However, as this new IPPR report shows, this step change from employers will only materialise with proactive government intervention.

Phoebe Griffith, IPPR Associate Director, said:

“The Trusted Sponsor Scheme would strike at the heart of one of the core concerns of the public: the feeling that employers have benefited from migration more than workers. This scheme could go a long way to help to address this concern by encouraging employers who are employing migrant workers to behave responsibly and actively invest in the domestic workforce.”

Precise Mediaon behalf of; Sofie Jenkinson 

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