Government migrant cap policy gets mixed reaction from IT

Unite union has accused the government of missing an opportunity to stop the misuse by companies of the intra-company transfer programme for skilled workers in its migrant policy announcement today.

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The government’s migrant cap policy, announced today is causing controversy and concern in the IT industry.

Minsters have introduced an annual limit of 21,700 for people coming into the UK under the skilled and highly-skilled routes, and raised the minimum salary for workers coming through the intra-company transfer route for more than 12 months to £40,000. Their stay will also be restricted to five years.

Home Secretary Theresa May said that the  new changes are “crucial” to limit the number of people coming to work in the UK, while “still attracting the brightest and the best”.

"We have worked closely with businesses while designing this system, and listened to their feedback, but we have also made clear that as the recovery continues, we need employers to look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country,” she said.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), said, “After five years campaigning on this, we are pleased the Government has decided to tighten up the rules governing intra-company transfers.”

She doubted whether the £40,000 minimum salary would reduce the number of intra-company transfers in the IT sector however. “The average UK wage for IT professionals is close to £40,000, and it is questionable how many workers earn less that that once they arrive,” said Swain.

“About 80% of non-EU IT workers come to the UK on intra-company transfers. The cap won’t significantly reduce that influx,” she added.

The Unite union, which represents IT workers, has accused the government of missing an opportunity to stop the misuse by companies of the intra-company transfer programme for skilled workers in its migrant policy announcement today.
However, Unite believes that excluding intra-company transfers and by failing to restrict the use of tax and accommodation allowances, the government has “turned a blind eye” to the misuse of the points-based migration system.

Under existing terms, employers can claim accommodation allowances of up to 30 percent of the salary total, or 30 percent if the certificate of sponsorship is less than 12 months. Furthermore, pay and allowances are not taxed if the migrant worker is temporarily transferred for under two years.

In addition, Unite said the higher salary threshold will only lead to employers taking advantage the system by transferring workers into the UK for less than a year.

Peter Skyte, national officer at Unite, said: “The government has spectacularly squandered the opportunity to deal with misuse and abuse of the intra company transfer scheme in its migration cap announcement in the face of largely empty threats by big business to withdraw investment from the UK.”

“The measures announced will do little to prevent employers from abusing the system, and manipulating tax and accommodation allowances to undercut UK resident workers.”

He added: “The government has also failed to take any action to stimulate job opportunities to reduce the high unemployment rate for skilled computer science graduates and young people in general by providing employers with greater incentives to source labour from the domestic market as envisaged in its original consultation on the migration cap."

The new rules will come into effect from April 2011.

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