Migrant workers cap borders on madness

The government’s limit on non-EU migrant workers could be bad news for FDs who rely on a migrant workforce

20 May 2011

By Peter Crush

Tidjane Thiam

Paul Venables, finance director at recruitment company Hays, is incredulous. “In a global, recovering economy, why would any government want to stop businesses hiring the best people? I just don’t understand it,” he says.

Venables’ ire is directed at the UK Border Agency’s recently established cap on the number of non-European Union (EU) workers entering the UK. From 7 April, just 20,700 visas will be granted each year to those coming into the UK under the skilled (Tier 2) route. Companies already report that this is taking recruitment decisions out of their hands.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) found in April that 16 percent of employers say they have been prevented from hiring non-EU talent by the cap and its associated skills assessment process, which forces businesses to prove the skills cannot be found at home.

And it seems Venables is not alone in speaking out. Research by Robert Half International finds a quarter of finance directors across England think caps will have a negative impact on their business, rising to 39 percent for those in London.

“FDs are saying they do not want this problem on their patch, especially if it is yet another regulatory issue,” says Clive Davis, director of corporate accounts at Robert Half. “Well organised companies do not want uncertainty in their planning. When FDs are charged with improving shareholder return, anything that is an obstacle is a cause for concern.”

Venables says that a cap is “a philosophy we, in business, cannot understand: it is yet more red tape”, adding that “it makes our job harder. We already have to do a slug of work to verify international qualifications, and this will add to the pile and add cost to the business.”

According to Venables, Hays handles 5,000-10,000 international transfers each year. He argues his company’s clients will see international recruitment dry up. “We had 200 engineers ready to bring to the country for one client,” he adds. “Suddenly, we were unable to. It makes no sense at all.”


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