It’s the inescapable news story of recent times and not surprisingly, ‘Brexit fatigue’ has well and truly set in. The unfortunate reality is that leaving the European Union will touch most businesses in the UK and the adult social care sector is no exception. A month or so ago we were talking about the green paper that the government is still yet to deliver. The latest area of concern is a different colour all together; a new immigration white paper.
Leaving the EU promises an end to the free movement of EU citizens across the UK border. For foreign workers, this means that they will be subject to the same visa conditions as a current worker from outside the union. While this may, at first, sound like it’s just their problem to deal with, the opposite is actually true. The social care industry heavily relies on migrant workers to make up much of its workforce. In London, almost 60% of care workers are from a country outside the UK.
The current tiered worker visa system never implemented its third level for low-skill workers with the idea that those jobs would be filled by EU citizens, namely from Poland and Romania. Now that the visa exemptions are set to end, it clearly follows that the third tier category would be implemented, right?
Following the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) the new immigration white paper does not have a pathway for low-skill workers. This is a serious blow to the social care sector which already has employment shortages and a turnover rate of 23.9%. Migrant workers will instead have to qualify for a tier two visa, which requires them to meet a salary threshold of £30,000. The social care industry has an average salary of £20,536.
See the problem?
To lessen the impact, the government has promised to introduce a transitional, short-term worker visa for the construction and social care sectors. It is however only for 12 months with an additional 12 month cooling off period. With many current employees nearing retirement age, more permanent worker solutions will be required to ensure services and care are not compromised.