Labour shortages in the Leisure & Hospitality sector

The end of Free Movement on 31st December 2020, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in labour shortages throughout the UK. However, one of the worst affected industries is Leisure and Hospitality given the heavy reliance on EU workers.

The new Points Based System which was introduced on 1st January 2021 made the following key changes:

  • Resident Labour Market Test abolished
  • Skill level reduced from RQF Level 6 to Level 3
  • Reduction to minimum salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600 (£20,480 new entrant)
  • Introduction of tradeable points
  • Quota of overseas Certificates of Sponsorship suspended
  • Cooling off period abolished for Skilled Workers
  • Additional minimum salary threshold for Indefinite Leave to Remain abolished

The Government announced that not only would this simplify the visa process, but it would also enable employers to address skills shortages through sponsorship of migrant workers.

But are the changes enough to address these issues within the Leisure and Hospitality industry? In short, the answer is no. Whilst it cannot be disputed that the new immigration system offers more flexibility and option to employers, the lowering of the skills threshold does not go far enough to solve the skills shortages faced by many in this sector. There continues to be a huge shortage of roles such as Waiters, Housekeeping, Beauty Therapists, Kitchen Porters but these jobs are considered too ‘low skilled’ to qualify for a visa.  Furthermore, there is no industry specific or seasonal visa category aimed at this pool of jobs. Many businesses are suffering as a result with many being forced to reduce the number of covers, rooms available or even close due to staff shortages.  Even when the roles can be filled with a Skilled Worker visa, many smaller organisations are stifled by the colossal Government fees.

It is evident that the current system does not meet the needs of the industry. Legal representatives and industry leaders must continue to lobby the Government for real change. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recently conducted a call for evidence for a review of the Shortage Occupation list and we are awaiting its feedback. It would be a significant boost if not only the skills level is reduced but these roles are also placed on the Shortage Occupation list. An introduction of specific lower skilled visa category would also resolve the existing issues.

However, change by the Government is not guaranteed and can be lengthy to implement. This is not helpful when the business requires staff immediately. We can assist my exploring other avenues such as alternative visa categories, and upskilling existing vacancies.

Our team are happy to discuss your circumstances in more detail to see how we can assist in tackling your labour shortages within the existing immigration system. Contact us to speak to a member of our Immigration Team.

Usof Shah
Senior Solicitor, Immigration
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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