Immigration Bill Committee

Written evidence submitted by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) (IB 03)

1. SUMMARY

The single biggest issue currently affecting the UK jobs market is skill shortages. In the long-term, government and employers need to invest in upskilling the domestic workforce but businesses need to access skilled labour right now.

2. SKILLS AND MIGRATION

2.1 There has been a boom in job creation as the economy has recovered from recession but this has not been matched by the availability of high-skilled labour. This has resulted in severe skill shortages across many sectors, causing a slump in productivity. Month on month, REC data shows that while demand for staff continues to increase, the availability of candidates decreases.

2.2 The REC produce two monthly job reports.

· Jobs Outlook is a survey of employers on their hiring intentions. Last month, employers reported growing confidence with a significant majority (74%) saying that domestic economic conditions are improving (Source: REC Jobs Outlook, 24 Sept 2015).

· Report on Jobs is developed by the market research company Markit and draws on data from UK recruiters on staff appointments, job vacancies and starting salaries. Last month, permanent job appointments rose at the slowest pace in two and a half years, with many recruiters stating that a lack of available skilled labour was slowing down recruitment.

2.3 In light of these challenges, we believe the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of Tier 2 visas must be allowed to conclude before an immigration skills charge is introduced. This could unfairly penalise those employers who have already exhausted domestic recruitment channels. It also fails to recognise the high investment made by UK businesses into formal training for its domestic staff.

3. ENFORCEMENT

3.1 We support the creation of a Director for Labour Market Enforcement and welcome the efforts to co-ordinate resources and intelligence across BIS and the Home Office. Strong enforcement enables compliant businesses to grow and sends out a powerful message to those who flout the rules.

3.2 There is a clear role for professional bodies to play in sharing information with government and its agencies, and improving compliance standards. All recruitment agencies that are members of the REC must abide by our Code of Professional Practice – a copy of which is enclosed. Companies must also take a compliance test every two years to enter and stay in REC membership.

3.3 The REC Code of Professional Practice sets out specific standards for the treatment of international workers. Any breaches of the REC Code can be investigated – and the ultimate arbitrators for this is our Professional Standards Committee which includes representation from the TUC and the CBI to ensure that both the employer and the worker voice is portrayed.

4. ILLEGAL WORKING

4.1 The vast majority of UK businesses are compliant with the law and will welcome the government’s attempts to crackdown on illegal working. The REC is keen to continue to play its part. For example, we previously supported the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act and were amongst those who called for there to be end-user accountability in the supply chain.

4.2 We want to continue to work with the Home Office and the reformed GLA to strengthen its intelligence gathering function so that compliant businesses and vulnerable workers are better protected. It is not clear from the Immigration Bill how the GLA will be reconstituted and of course this is subject to the current consultation. It is important to note at this stage, however, that we would urge government to continue its risk-based approach to regulating the sector. Indeed, any moves to extend licensing and increase the burden on business would be a heavy-handed and detrimental step.

October 2015

Prepared 21st October 2015