The Construction Leadership Council welcomes the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report detailing updated proposals for a Points-based migration system and salary thresholds. A modern migration system will be a key part of the UK’s future competitiveness and it is clear from the detail of the analysis in the MAC report that the proposals have been developed with great care. We would also like to thank the CITB on behalf of the industry for the effort put into a well-evidenced response to the MAC’s call for evidence that has effectively articulated the industry’s needs and concerns.
As a representative of the construction sector, the CLC is very aware of the particular circumstances that our industry faces as it prepares for Brexit. By expanding the range of eligible occupations to include skilled construction trades, and by setting salary thresholds at the 25th percentile, equivalent to £25,600, the MAC has taken positive steps to align their proposals to the practical reality of the industry, and in particular our growing reliance on skilled craftspeople sourced from outside of the UK.
We call on the Government to follow the recommendations of the MAC in finalising the details of the Points-Based System, but to also remain sensitive to the needs of sectors like construction that will have a key role in the delivery of the UK’s planned £100bn infrastructure programme.
Looking to the next stage of the development of proposals, the CLC calls out two specific issues that are particularly relevant to our sector.
The first is the industry’s employment model. Despite the steps taken to extend the range of eligible occupations and by reducing the salary threshold, MAC calculates that 86% of workers from the EEA will be ineligible to work in the UK due to their self-employed status. CLC is working with the CITB and other bodies to develop a ‘clearing house’ mechanism to facilitate the access of skilled overseas workers into the UK market. This may not be in time for the adoption of the Points-Based System. Prudent construction businesses should consider now what changes they will need to make to their business model in advance of the introduction of the post-Brexit migration system.
The second is construction’s need for workers at all skill levels as part of project teams. Nearly 50% of the EEA-sourced UK construction workforce are engaged in activities classed as low-skilled, but these workers are often training for more highly skilled roles. The proposals set out by MAC in their report mean that the industry could potentially lose access to overseas markets from which to source these essential but not highly valued roles. The government’s proposal for low-skilled migrant labour is the temporary worker route. However, if this is to work for our sector, the duration of the work permit will need to be extended to two years, and the work permit will need to allow for a potential transition to an eligible occupation.
CLC will continue to work with government and industry to develop workable proposals that enable the UK construction industry to contribute most effectively to the success of the UK as it leaves the EU. We call on all construction enterprises to engage positively with the proposals for the Points-Based System as it evolves.