Ministers are understood to be considering adding the hospitality sector to the short of occupation list (SoL) to help alleviate the sectors chronic staffing issues.
According to reports ministers have asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) for advice on whether the hospitality, construction and retail industries should be on the list of sectors where there is a shortage of workers, helping them to recruit from overseas.
Earlier this month UKHospitality revealed that a record 2.6 million people are now employed in accommodation and foodservice, with the sector creating one in five new jobs – despite crippling vacancies and staff shortages.
The trade body said there was significant job creation taking place in the sector now and insisted there was “the potential to go even further”.
But it said that would only be possible with the right action at the Spring Budget and has called on chancellor Jeremy Hunt to implement two key measures.
The first is to reform the Apprenticeship Levy to enable funding to be used for other forms of training and to change its operation to offer greater flexibility to employers and employees over training – and incentivise economically inactive people into work.
The second is to implement minor, short-term immigration reforms to counter the sales being lost due to labour shortages, particularly abolishing or reducing the Immigration Skills Charge and offering more flexibility to students to work longer hours.
UKHospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said:
“The ability of hospitality businesses to create more than 20% of new jobs in the past year, in the face of extraordinary cost pressures, is testament to its resilience and ability to battle against the odds.
“Employing a record number of people is something we should all be proud of, especially when those figures don’t include the hundreds of thousands employed in broader contract catering, leisure and visitor attractions.
“If we can do this now, just think what we can do in calmer economic times. We can be the engine behind significant job creation and economic growth, offering everyone opportunities to enter the workplace, further their career or return from being economically inactive.”
Jeremy Hunt ordered the workforce review amid concerns the economy is being held back by shortages of workers that have emerged since the pandemic and Brexit.
On the 24 January 2022 the government introduced changes to the rules confirming that Care Workers were added to the UK’s “Shortage Occupation” list. She now enables them to apply for Skilled Worker visas, under the new Points Based Immigration System. They will remain eligible for this route, initially for a 12-month period only.
The MAC offers independent advice to the Home Office on immigration policy and produces reports on whether certain occupations should or shouldn’t be given some special dispensations to make it easier for employers to access migrant labour to fill vacancies.
Pre-pandemic, it produced a damning report recommending chefs be reduced from the shortage occupation list and saying the failure of employers to improve the domestic pipeline and hostile working environments spoke against keeping chefs on the list. The report was criticised by operators and trade bodies who have said it was “hardly surprising” the industry struggled to fill roles with UK candidates when cheffing was branded “low skill”. Chefs are now eligible for a skilled worker visa.
A petition last year calling for a hospitality worker visa scheme gained more than 18,000 signatures, however the Home Office said there were no plans to introduce a visa route for recruitment “at or near the minimum wage with relatively short training” and that businesses “should invest in and develop the UK’s domestic labour force”.