Overseas chefs should be given immigration fast-track into the UK

Chefs from overseas who want to come work in the UK should be given access to the country’s immigration fast-track, the Shortage Occupation List.

Warning that the UK was now so short of chefs that many hospitality businesses will cut trading hours if there is no improvement in the labour supply, trade body UKHospitality has urged the Migration Advisory Committee to amend the Shortage Occupation List in recognition of the sector’s pressing need for trained staff.

Responding to the MAC’s call for evidence, UKHospitality highlighted that there were reported chef shortages ranging from 10% for head chefs, up to 21% for production chefs.

The trade body also requested that hospitality supervisors – which includes housekeepers and receptionists – and sommeliers be reclassified in order for them to be eligible to come into the UK via the skilled visa route.

It noted that 20% of its members currently have vacancies for hospitality supervisors and there are estimated to be up to 600 vacancies for sommeliers.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “As we have continued to highlight, we need to have a pragmatic and sensible approach to immigration and that simply isn’t the case now.

“While the sector continues to invest significantly in growing its own talent, there needs to be changes to our immigration system to enable businesses to fill essential skills gaps.

“The Shortage Occupation List is a critical part of that and adding chefs to the list is a simple move that can have enormous benefits,” insisted Ms Nicholls. “In our evidence submitted to the MAC, we highlighted how a quarter of members told us they would restrict their trading hours if this level of chef vacancies continued. This is likely to be on top of cutbacks many businesses have already been forced to make.

“It’s not just chefs. Critical roles like supervisors, executive housekeepers and multi-lingual receptionists are all in high demand from the sector but they are just unable to be filled,” she added.

“A reclassification of these important roles to make them eligible for the skilled visa route would provide a massive boost.

“I’d urge the MAC to recognise the value hospitality can bring to the economy, when it’s operating at full strength, and grant our requests to help alleviate the devastating shortages that continue to plague our sector.”