Government proposals for new immigration laws - expected 1st January 2021

The government has released proposals for new immigration laws expected to be introduced from 1 January 2021.

With the Brexit transition period in full swing, organisations are likely already looking ahead to 1 January 2021 and how immigration is going to work going forward. Previously, the government have made references to a ‘points-based system’ and now, finally, have provided more information.

Under these proposals, individuals who seek to come and work in the UK following the end of free movement on 31 December 2020 will need to meet certain criteria or have a minimum of 70 points. Points are to be awarded for having a job offer from an approved sponsor, seeking to undertake a job of an appropriate skill level, being able to speak English and the qualifications that the individual has achieved. Generally, the job will need to be providing a salary of at least £25,600, aside from in certain areas where skills shortages have been identified. For example, those seeking positions in nursing may be able to apply for roles offering a minimum of £20,480.

These new rules are likely to have an impact upon organisations who have come to rely on so-called low-skilled labour from the EU. In particular, there is expected to be a knock-on effect in the hospitality and catering industries, alongside agricultural operations that make use of seasonal workers from overseas. Although the government does appear to want to provide a degree of flexibility to tackle these potential issues, organisations should not believe that their sector will meet the requirements of having a skills shortage just because they are struggling to source workers.

As we creep towards 1 January 2021, organisations need to make sure they are ready for these changes. They represent a clear goal of reducing the number of low-skilled migrants coming to the UK and, if this is something a company relies on, they should consider steps they can take to limit the potential impact. One option is to encourage EU nationals already working for the business to apply for ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme before the deadline of 30 June 2021, and providing assistance to those who wish to apply if possible. Another area to explore is working to increase the skill levels of current staff members, something that may encourage their retention and progression into roles that may be difficult to fill going forward.

Whilst these may be subject to change as we wait to see a new Immigration Bill, which is expected later in 2020, they do shine a light on how immigration is going to work for all foreign nationals, including EU nationals, going forward. As such, it is important to bear this in mind during all forward decisions.