The Government is under fire over its plans to scrap visas for low-skilled migrants after Brexit.
In a bid to end a dependency on ‘cheap labour from Europe’ an Australian-style points system is set to be introduced once freedom of movement no longer applies to Britain.
Skilled migrants will have to earn £25,600 or more if they are coming to the UK with a job offer, which industry leaders warn will ‘spell absolute disaster’ for the care sector, whose workers are often paid far less.
Farmers, builders and hospitality and food and drink businesses also risk being hit hard, but firms have been told will ‘need to adjust’ to the changes due for the start of next year.
Industry leaders have hit out at the lack of provision for low-paid workers under the new immigration plans and urged the Government ‘not to turn the tap off overnight’ if companies struggle to recruit staff under the new system.
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said the plans ‘spell absolute disaster fore the care sector’, while Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said they will ‘not meet the health and care needs of the population’.
the UK Homecare Association said it was ‘dismayed’ by the Government’s move, adding: ‘Cutting off the supply of prospective careworkers under a new migration system will pave the way for more people waiting unnecessarily in hospital or going without care.
‘Telling employers to adjust, in a grossly underfunded care system, is simply irresponsible.’
National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters expressed ‘serious concerns’ about the Government’s ‘failure to recognise British food and farming’s needs’.
Mark Harrison, of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), raised concerns about bakers, meat processors and workers producing food like cheese and pasta not qualifying under the new regime.
According to the Government’s policy paper published last night, the ‘firm and fair’ system will ‘attract the high-skilled workers we need to contribute to our economy’.
It says the UK will have ‘full control over who comes to this country’ for the ‘first time in decades’.
The paper added: ‘We will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route.
‘We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust.’
It said the settlement scheme giving a chance for EU citizens already in the country to apply to stay after Brexit will ‘provide employers with flexibility to meet labour market demands’.
An expansion of a seasonal workers scheme and arrangements with eight countries to make it easier for young people to come to the UK is also expected to plug labour shortages.
Employers have until January 1 2021 to meet the requirements and ensure their staff have the right to work in the country.
Under the new rules EU citizens hoping to move to the UK will undergo the same criminal background check as anyone outside the bloc would.
To be eligible for a visa to live and work in the country, applicants will need to gain at least 70 points, through key requirements like being able to speak English to a certain level, having a job offer and meeting a minimum salary threshold.
But those with the ‘highest skills and the greatest talents’ like scientists, engineers and academics may not need a job waiting for them to be allowed in.
Other points will be awarded for certain qualifications and if there is a shortage in a particular occupation.
Announcing the policy during a visit to Imperial College London, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘It is right that people should speak English before they come to our country, that they should have a sponsored route, whether it’s through employment or a sponsored route through an academic institution.’
But the Liberal Democrats claimed the proposals were based on ‘xenophobia’ rather than the ‘social and economic needs of our country’.
Labour said the post-Brexit immigration system would need so many exemptions it would be ‘meaningless’ and could make it difficult for the UK to attract workers.
The salary threshold for skilled migrants will be lowered to £25,600 for those coming to the UK with a job offer and there may be concessions for those earning no less than £20,480 as long as they still meet certain requirements or their occupation is short of staff.
Fees for work visas are expected to remain largely the same at around £1,200.
Last month, independent adviser the Migration Advisory Committee said replacing freedom of movement with a points-based immigration system after Brexit could cut economic growth and may have ‘zero effect’ on providing more British jobs for British workers.