The Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, announced earlier this week that the Government ‘expects’ their immigration white paper to be published before the House rises for the Christmas break this coming Thursday.
The immigration white paper is expected to confirm that EU migrants will need to have a job offer before they can come and work in a post Brexit Britain. It is also understood that EU migrants will be required to have secured a position where they will earn a minimum of £30,000.
EU migrants who want to work in post Brexit Britain but secure a job paying less than £30,000 will only be allowed in on one-year visas. They will then be required to go ‘back home’ after a year and can only return after a non-specified ‘cooling off period’ of time.
Some of the press are reporting that “the details mark a major victory for the PM in her standoff with Home Secretary Sajid Javid over plans for a post-Brexit border crackdown”. This is related to Sajid Javid’s attempted Cabinet mutiny over the PM’s desire to halt low-skilled immigration. We see this as a disaster, and particularly, but not uniquely disastrous for hospitality, if somehow this white paper is passed and implemented.
It does beggar belief that such a piece of legislation could even be considered, let alone published and put forward.
Here’s why from the Government’s own statistics
The Government’s own Office for National Statistics in its most recent report on employment in the UK shows – that employment is at its highest since comparable records began in 1971 and that unemployment is at its lowest since 1975.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics also shows that between September 2008 and September 2018 the number of ‘new’ people working in our industry grew by 420,000.
Employment growth in the UK hospitality industry is highly reliant on EU nationals, making up between 12 -24% of its workforce, the % variations are in specific sectors and regions.
Here’s why from UKHospitality and KPMG
In March 2017 KPMG prepared a report for UKHospitality – ‘Labour migration in the hospitality sector’.
- Between 12.3% and 23.7% of the UK hospitality sector workforce is currently made up of EU nationals.
- In a scenario in which there is no new migration into the UK hospitality sector from 2019; existing EU nationals are not required to leave; and the recruitment of UK and rest of world workers remains constant, we estimate that the hospitality sector faces a recruitment shortfall of upwards of 60,000 per annum workers from 2019.
- Based on this scenario, by 2029, the hospitality sector could face a total recruitment gap of over 1 million workers (over a quarter of its expected total 3.5m in employment) due to lack of access to EU workers unless it is able to replace EU workers with other types of employees – from other sectors, the unemployed and those not currently in the workforce.
- However, it will be hard to fill the potential recruitment gap with the current unemployed and inactive population – existing vacancies in the hospitality sector are already proving hard to fill despite existing initiatives in place to attract these workers.
- There may be some scope to reduce the sector’s labour force requirements through productivity improvements and automation, however extensive productivity gains are unlikely to be possible due to the manual nature of many of the roles and the demand from customers for the human interaction that typifies the sector.
- Long term, it may be possible to recruit some more unemployed or inactive workers into the hospitality sector, and to reduce head count requirement through productivity gains and increased retention. However, in the short to medium term, the recruitment gap is unlikely to be met through these routes.
- Regions such as London (with 25.7% – 38.0% EU nationals), service lines such as hotels (22.1% – 34.1% EU migrants) and restaurants (13.8% – 26.1% EU nationals) and within these businesses, roles including waiters and waitresses (75.3% EU nationals), chefs (24.6% EU nationals) and housekeeping staff (37.1% EU nationals) are more highly reliant on EU workers.
The people and skills shortages in volume terms, how many are needed, is only addressed above by the report in EU terms, our industry is far more diverse that that, and that is something we can celebrate. But increases the difficulty (impossibility) of the task to fill the gap.
Our own everyday experience, and everyone else’s we suspect, of working in and/or visiting and enjoying hospitality only confirms the data. We believe the reality of the people and skills shortages in our industry to be even more acute than the UKHospitality and KPMG findings last year.
Adding the proposed legislation in the Government’s latest immigration white paper next Thursday can therefore only compound the already considerable hospitality people and skills shortage.