U.K.: Government Proposes to Restrict Overseas Hiring With Tighter Labor Market Test

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By Ali Qassim

Nov. 25—Under proposals unveiled by the Conservative government during its annual party conference, U.K.–based businesses may have to prove they are not favoring high-skilled workers from outside Britain over local employees in their recruitment. One of several proposals aimed at lowering immigration into the U.K., tightening the “resident labor market test” would require companies to advertise a job in the U.K. for 28 days before recruiting from abroad, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said.

According to Rudd, who oversees immigration and crime, the current test has “become a tick-box exercise, allowing some firms to get away with not training local people.” A new version should “ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labor market, not taking jobs British people could do.”

Rudd also argued that the existing rules are “not fair on companies doing the right thing,” which is why she wanted “to look again at whether our immigration system provides the right incentives for businesses to invest in British workers.”

Concern over uncontrolled immigration was one of the key reasons citizens voted to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum, Rudd said, which is why it is important that the new government ensure that “all British people get the opportunities they need to get on in life.”

Business Groups Oppose Changes

The U.K.’s key business groups unanimously criticized the proposals.

Josh Hardie, deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said that even through British companies invest 45 billion pounds ($57.3 billion) a year training workers in the UK, “there are skills gaps right now and if firms do not fill them they cannot grow and spread prosperity.”

“At a time when we need strong links globally to seize new opportunities after the [Brexit] referendum, being seen as open to the best and brightest is vital,” Hardie continued. “And we should be clear that business does not see immigration and training as an either/or choice. We need both.”

Adam Marshall, acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, agreed that “now is not the time to tell businesses that they have to jump through more hoops to get the talent they need from around the world.”

Marshall warned that many companies “already have a hard time bringing in critical workers when they can’t find the right skills at home in the U.K., and tighter regulations may simply leave many choosing not to recruit or expand at this time.”

James Sproule, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said his group “has long argued that an integral part of our economic success has been our ability to attract the best workers from around the world.” The government’s “plans to ‘name and shame’ companies who employ foreign workers, aside from adding to bureaucracy, send precisely the wrong message.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ali Qassim in London at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

For More Information

For more information on British HR law and regulation, see the U.K. primer.

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