The salary threshold for immigrants should be cut from £30,000 to £20,000 in a bid to address the UK’s skills shortage, businesses and education bodies have said.
Under current immigration laws, non-EU workers must secure employment with a salary of £30,000 or more. And this is set to be extended for EU workers after Brexit.
The coalition, which consists of the British Retail Consortium, business advocacy group London First, Universities UK, and UK Hospitality, is calling on the next prime minister to address the issue, with as many as 60% of jobs in the UK falling under that £30,000 threshold.
Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive at London First, said: “It is vital that the government does all it can to keep the country at full strength at a time of great uncertainty. The thousands of businesses we represent are clear that without a bold move now on immigration reform, the skills shortages many companies face risk becoming even more acute.”
In a letter to both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, who are battling to become the next Conservative leader and prime minister, said: “Without the ability to access international talent, many of our world-class sectors are at significant risk,” they said in a letter to both prime ministerial candidates.
“As the UK prepares to leave the EU in the near future, it is imperative that the government puts in place measures that will avoid employers facing a cliff-edge in recruitment, and works towards building a successful economy that is open and attractive.”
Mr Hunt has said he would review the policy if he were to become prime minister, while Boris Johnson, who is considered to be the favourite, has previously said he favours a points-based system similar to the one used by Australia.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our new skills-based immigration system is designed to attract the talented workers we need for the economy to continue to prosper, while also delivering on the referendum result following the end of free movement.
“We know there are a range of views about salary thresholds, and the home secretary has asked independent experts to advise on this issue before the proposals are finalised next year.
“The new system will reduce the burden on businesses by streamlining and simplifying our sponsorship system and we will create a new temporary work route to allow UK companies access to the employees they need to thrive.”