Minimum salary threshold for UK work permits
The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA)* recently provided a helpful response to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on the minimum salary threshold for UK work permits.
Different regional salary thresholds
One of the main issues with the current UK work permit system is that the minimum salary requirement of £30,000 per annum applies equally to all parts of the UK.
In 2018, there was an approximative gap of £10,000 between average earnings in London and other areas of the UK. Employers will not pay more than what the job is worth in the local market. Moreover, it is interesting to note that for instance, 63% of Scottish employees earn below the £30,000 threshold.
Additionally, this is relevant to the minimum salary requirement for settlement applications, as this increases every year. This puts a significant burden on employers with a growth in costs with no certainty over their ability to retain staff.
The UK always complains about people leaving rural areas to go to London. Imposing a different salary threshold by region will allow migrants to fulfil key positions in rural areas where UK workers do not want to work or live in. This will revive the economies of those abandoned regions.
Possibility of regional variation
Furthermore, a regional variation is already in place for the maintenance requirement of Tier 4 Student visas. In fact, a migrant student studying in London must have more savings than a student studying outside London as the cost of living in London will be far superior. Hence, different regional salary thresholds for work permits seem feasible.
This is also demonstrated by other countries having successfully introduced regional immigration systems. Examples could be Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada, Switzerland with a regionalised system, and Sweden, Norway and Denmark for more informal arrangements.
Removal of the minimum salary threshold for shortage professions
Many industries will surely suffer significantly after Brexit as they will not be able to hire EEA nationals freely. The UK should respond flexibly to this problem which could lead to a shortage of important professions.
Therefore, the process of hiring migrant workers should be easier, quicker and less expensive than what it currently is for those professions. Thus, the removal of the minimum salary threshold for some low salary profession sectors seems primordial.
High public value sectors
Moreover, the minimum salary threshold is even more problematic for high public value sectors without low wages such as the health sector. The health sector is the perfect example of a shortage of UK workers for the growing demand. The minimum salary threshold will further increase a shortage in this sector after Brexit, as EEA nationals are an important part of this workforce. Therefore, it seems reasonable to lower the minimum salary threshold, if not remove it, for those sectors where the average salary is lower than the other industries.
Pro-rata salary threshold for part-time workers
Lastly, it is vital for the UK government to take into account the increase in flexible hours in the current labour market. It is now common to work from home or part-time, which still remains more likely for women.
The immigration rules prevent middle or low-income migrant workers to work flexibly as they will not reach the minimum salary threshold in this case. This is detrimental to their family life and, unfortunately, predominantly affects more women than men.
This is a very old-fashion system which does not take into account the modernisation of the workplace and will ultimately lead to inequality and unfairness. Therefore, pro-rata salary threshold would be a good solution to remedy this.
*ILPA is a professional association of barristers, solicitors and advocates practising in immigration, asylum and nationality law. ILPA aims are to keep up to date with legal rules but also promote and improve the UK immigration rules to ensure a fair and human rights-based immigration and asylum system. Barar & Associates is a proud member of ILPA.
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