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Legal insights & industry updates

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CBI boss calls for relaxation of immigration rules to boost growth

With the UK close to being in a recession, economic growth is needed more than ever. However, businesses are continuing to struggle with staff shortages meaning many are having to reduce production or shorten their operating hours. These pressures not limited to one particular sector but are being felt across the UK economy as a whole.

Industry has been calling for more flexibility in the immigration rules to allow the system to adapt and react to current labour shortages and boost economic growth. However, the UK government's position, as underlined in last week’s autumn statement, is to focus on longer term solutions to the current difficulties through upskilling the resident workforce and moving towards more automation. However, these things take time and businesses are in need of staff now. In the meantime, Immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, has told bosses that they should turn to the ‘domestic workforce’ to fill labour shortages

The latest business leader to call for a relaxation in the UK immigration rules is Tony Danker, the Director-General of the CBI. Ahead of its annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Danker has called on the government to be ‘practical’ about immigration. Mr Danker has asked the government to be ‘honest with people’ about the scale of labour shortages in the UK, pointing out that there are not enough British workers to fill the vacancies that currently exist.

Whilst the current immigration rules provide a route for UK employers to hire staff from overseas, this is limited to roles that are deemed sufficiently skilled by the Home Office. Other than short term seasonable worker visas for the agricultural and poultry sectors, there is no visa route for low skilled workers. But it is in sectors such as hospitality and retail where there is a significant shortage of workers in roles that do not meet the skill threshold for visa sponsorship.

Immigration is a key component for economic growth and in times of recession the government is being urged to take a more pragmatic approach to migration and provide meaningful visa routes to support UK businesses meet the current demand for workers.

Mr Danker said people might be "arguing against immigration but it's the only thing that's increased the potential growth of our economy since March. "Growth is a precondition to a stable society. Without growth the NHS gets worse not better. People's lives get worse not better. And we lack the resources we need to transform ourselves to a zero-carbon world," he said.


immigration, employment law