Immigration’s role in recruitment drive

Visa system can play part in tackling staff shortages


RECENT reports have highlighted the recruitment difficulties being faced by the hospitality sector in Scotland, writes immigration lawyer Ashley Fleming.

A survey by UK Hospitality, the British Institute of Innkeeping, and the British Beer & Pub Association, highlights the impact staff shortages are having on the sector, showing that nearly half of operators have had to cut trading hours or capacity in order to cope. And the latest quarterly survey by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce found hiring staff was a challenge, with recruitment difficulties up 10% in the last quarter.

These issues are reported to be costing the industry £21bn in lost revenue across the UK.
Chefs, in particular, are in high demand, with 76% of survey respondents stating that they are struggling to recruit these positions. Given the demand, there has been an increase in using UK visa routes to fill positions.

Prior to Brexit, the sector could rely and benefit from EU migration but now that staffing route has closed, organisations are having to look further afield.

In recent times, most hospitality roles were excluded from the visa sponsorship system but Brexit has changed that.

Given these changes, this will be the first time that many organisations have had to navigate the UK visa system which can be a daunting process. However it is an important tool for organisations looking to tackle staff shortages.

Visa sponsorship for chefs and many managerial positions is possible under the Skilled Worker visa route. There are minimum salary thresholds for visa sponsorship; this level of pay is set at £25,600 per annum, although there are some instances where a salary of £20,480 may be appropriate. Adjustments may have to be made to these pay rates depending on the number of hours an individual is contracted to work. Many organisations will already be offering salaries in excess of this level given the tight recruitment market and salary increases being offered due to the cost of living crisis.

That said, visa sponsorship is not without its costs.

Employers wishing to employ staff under the skilled worker route must first have a sponsor licence. The cost of a licence depends on the size of the organisation, with small companies paying a licence fee of £536, and medium/large organisations paying £1476. If granted, a sponsor licence is valid for a four-year period and so the cost spread out over the life of the licence is relatively small.

Once an organisation has identified a suitable worker, it will need to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to them at a cost of £199. In addition, employers are also required to pay something called the Immigration Skills Charge which costs £364 per year for small/charitable organisations or £1000 for medium/large companies.

Given the potential lost revenue to the industry in remaining understaffed, using immigration as a recruitment strategy will be a small price to pay for many organisations to enable them to fill key positions and remain open.

• Ashley Fleming is an immigration expert at law firm Harper Macleod.