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2024 Changes To The UK Skilled Worker Immigration Policy - Impact On The Food Production Sector

27th February 2024


On 4 December 2023, the UK government announced changes to the immigration system that will take effect in March and April this year. In response, we have pulled together the information we have so far on how this will impact international recruits and the food production sector as an area of specialism here at Approach Personnel. 

Skilled Worker Visa 

  • From 4 April 2024, new applications will need to meet the increased salary threshold of £38,700.
  • Those already in the Skilled Worker route before the Immigration Rules changes should be exempt from the new median salary levels when they change sponsor, extend, or settle, providing they aren’t moving to different occupations. The Home Office would, however, expect their pay to progress at the same rate as resident workers; therefore, they would be subject to the updated 25th percentiles using the latest pay data when they next make an application to change employment, extend their stay, or settle. This is in line with normal practice.
  • They can still bring dependants to the UK as part of their visa. Dependents have a generic right to work.

The Association of Labour Providers (ALP) has voiced concerns that these new skilled worker immigration rules will have a disproportionate impact on food businesses that depend on overseas labour. In an open letter to the Home Office, ALP has advocated for the inclusion of crucial food manufacturing roles such as butchers and fish processors in the immigration salary list (which replaces the ‘shortage occupation roles list’ which has now been abolished).

The new measures, aimed at reducing net migration, are likely to be particularly detrimental to businesses employing workers in skilled occupations but which attract a lower salary. ALP asserts that these roles, including butchers, poultry and fish processors, and farmers, are “absolutely essential to food production and security” in the UK.

ALP’s CEO Joanne Young has criticised the timing of these changes, stating that they do not allow businesses to effectively plan and budget their activities. She pointed out that businesses have already committed to production volumes and pricing for 2024, and recruitment processes are already underway to meet these commitments.

The Home Office’s new rules include increasing the minimum wage of overseas workers to £38,700 to encourage the recruitment of domestic workers and reduce reliance on migrants. However, Young contends that recruiting workers from overseas is more costly and time-consuming than hiring domestic workers, and businesses would not choose this option if they had access to the right number of people with the right skills in the domestic workforce.

ALP has also warned that the increased salary for those coming through the skilled worker visa could lead to significant pay inflation at home. The subsequent cost increases could have a material impact on the cost of food throughout the supply chain, which would ultimately be borne by consumers. Additionally, ALP is concerned that businesses struggling to fill labour gaps could become less competitive and may have to reduce output or even close completely.

ALP has urged Government to include crucial occupation codes such as butchers and farmers in the immigration salary list. This would allow these workers to be eligible for a reduction to the salary thresholds.

We have a specialist division here at Approach Personnel, servicing large scale food manufacturers and industrial production companies. If you would like a consultation with our Divisional Manager to learn the intricacies of the latest changes, or discuss any staffing requirements then please feel free to give us a call today - 0115 900 3171

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