'Poorly thought-out' new immigration rules threaten to deepen Harrogate's staff shortages in hospitality sector - claim
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Simon J Cotton, Managing Director of the HRH Group, argues that, while not tackling the root cause of filling vacancies, the "poorly thought out" changes announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly would now make it "almost impossible" to recruit from overseas
From spring 2024, people looking to get work and family visas for the UK will need a job offer of least £38,700 to qualify - an increase of nearly 50% from the current £26,200 minimum.
The changes follow the Government's continued political embarassment over immigration figures which show net migration - the difference between the number of people coming to live in the UK and those leaving - reached a record level of 745,000 people last year.
Mr Cotton said, while he respected some of the motivation, the new visa rules would, nevertheless, have a negative impact on businesses.
"While respecting the Government's aim to reduce net migration, this doesn't really tackle the root cause of filling vacancies and helping businesses to survive and ultimately grow,” claimed Mr Cotton.
"It has been long recognised that there is a shortage of skilled chefs in the UK and with the huge growth in the hospitality industry to the economy over the last decade or so, this problem only appears to be getting worse.
"Home grown talent will always be our preferred option but, if British people choose not to take up a career in hospitality, then the only answer is to seek suitable candidates from further afield.
"This will become near on impossible with this proposed new legislation, raising the minimum wage of a foreign worker from £28,000 to nearly £39,000 next year.”
The higher salary rules exclude health and care workers - who account for almost half of people on work visas.
People on national pay scales, including teachers, will also be exempt.
Recent years in Harrogate have seen businesses in the care sector and hospitality voice their concerns over mounting recruitment problems attributed to a combination of Brexit and the Covid pandemic.
Mr Cotton of the HRH Group, whose portfolio includes The Yorkshire Hotel, The Fat Badger, The Pickled Sprout and the White Hart Hotel, said businesses would be forced to make the unenviable choice of raising wages to meet the new visa rules or lacking the staff to meet customer demand.
"Ultimately these increases will have to be passed on to all of the team, regardless of their background, making it impossible to recruit from overseas.
"If restaurants, hotels and pubs don't have the staff, it restricts the number of covers they can serve and limits turnover so not only does the business suffer but so does the overall taxes raised on that extra income.
"It's a poorly thought-out decision that needs proper consultation with senior leaders of the hospitality industry to find a suitable solution in my opinion.”
In another change to the rules over migrant workers announced by the Home Secretary, overseas care workers will no longer be able to bring their partner or children with them to the UK.
From September 2022-2023, more than 101,000 visas were issued to care workers in the UK, with an estimated 120,000 visas granted to associated dependants.