British companies will no longer be forced to advertise some of their most senior vacancies in local JobCentres in order to comply with immigration rules, after the Home Office backed down on the issue.
Under the government’s points-based immigration system, which seeks to restrict entry to workers who are highly skilled or needed to plug gaps, businesses must show they cannot fill jobs domestically before they are given to candidates from outside the European Union. That has led to local JobCentres carrying advertisements for senior positions such as directors or bankers, a situation described as “absurd” by immigration lawyers.
After lobbying by lawyers and businesses, Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, has agreed that companies will no longer have to display posts with a salary above £130,000 in JobCentres before they can go to an overseas worker.
They will, however, still need to advertise in other UK media, such as specialist recruitment websites.
The rules are being watered down as the Migration Advisory Committee, which oversees the points-based system, is seeking to tighten parts of the regime.
On Wednesday, the committee recommended that jobs with salaries above £40,000 should be advertised in JobCentres for four weeks, up from just one week, which will irk businesses.
David Metcalf, the committee’s chairman, acknowledged that “there have been concerns from some blue-chip companies . . . but we didn’t want the tail to wag the dog. If you’re thinking about teachers or architects or engineers, this needs to be four weeks.”
In a further tightening of the rules, skilled non-EU workers without formal qualifications must be paid a starting UK salary of at least £32,000, up from £24,000. The threshold is set lower for qualified workers, who will need to be paid £20,000 annually, up from £17,000.
The changes are expected to lead to a cut of 10 per cent in the number of skilled workers migrating to the UK from outside Europe.
The number of skilled non-EU workers entering Britain has fallen recently, from 69,000 in 2008 to an expected 50,000 this year, leading the committee to conclude that more radical changes to the system were not needed.
It declined to ban intra-company transfers, in which businesses bring in staff from overseas offices. Some unions argue that those transfers, which have risen by 50 per cent in four years, are being used to circumvent the rules, particularly in the IT sector.
“We’re not going to shoot ourselves in the foot and say Honda can’t bring people in to Swindon from Japan,” Mr Metcalf said. “Otherwise they wouldn’t invest here.”
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