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Employers favour UK-wide immigration system post-Brexit

Most employers would back a national approach to post-Brexit immigration, according to research

The findings from the CIPD and Adecco Group revealed that the relative majority (41%) of employers would prefer a UK-wide immigration system that is based on national labour or skills shortage occupations in the likely event of migration restrictions once the UK leaves the European Union. In contrast, 13% favour a sector-based policy and just 5% would back a regional policy.

The report suggests that the preference for a national labour or skills shortage occupation scheme reflects the main reason given by organisations for employing EU nationals; which is that they have difficulty finding local applicants to fill lower-skilled roles, as cited by 18% of employers.

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD, said: “The government’s continued rhetoric of an immigration system that only works to attract 'the brightest and the best’ simply doesn’t tally with what employers want or the economy needs.

“A post-Brexit immigration system based on a national skills or labour shortage occupation list is the most straightforward scheme to implement and would avoid penalising employers who have no alternative to recruiting EU nationals for what are thought of as low-skilled roles.”

The survey also revealed that organisations that employ EU nationals are significantly more likely than employers that don’t recruit EU nationals to invest in training. Organisations that employ EU nationals are much more likely to have a training budget (84%) than those who don’t (45%). This implies that organisations employing EU workers are doing so in an effort to invest in talent and skills, rather than to cut costs.

When asked about how they might respond to future migration restrictions on EU workers, the most common response cited by more than a quarter (27%) of employers is to continue to recruit EU nationals where possible, including a third (30%) of public sector organisations.

“The data shows that it’s highly questionable whether future migration restrictions on EU nationals will act as a catalyst for improving skills investment in the UK. To kick-start greater investment in skills across the economy as the UK prepares to leave the EU, the government should urgently review the apprenticeship levy and make it much more flexible to employers’ skills requirements," Davies added.

The latest quarterly Labour Market Outlook from the CIPD and the Adecco Group was based on the responses of more than 2,000 employers.