Inspiring Business by Sharing Success

New immigration system must work for 5.7 million small firms and self-employed

Responding to Sajid Javid’s speech at Conservative Party Conference, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Development Manager for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Mike Watkinson said:  

“Our EU colleagues are at the heart of the UK’s small business community. It’s very encouraging to hear the Home Secretary reassure EU citizens already resident in the UK that – deal or no deal – they can stay here after Brexit. We now need to see that commitment cemented with a technical notice.  

“However, today’s proposals for a new immigration system raise some very serious questions for firms all over the country.

 “One in five small employers has a member of staff from the EU in their team. More than two-thirds of EU citizens hired by small firms are low or mid-skilled – these are the care workers, construction specialists, office managers and mechanics that contribute so much to our society.

 “Yes we need an immigration system that puts skills first. But that means all of the skills that our 5.7 million small firms rely on, not just a randomly selected few.  

 “The danger is that these proposals could make a bad situation worse. More than a third of small firms now say skills shortages are a barrier to growth, and it’s a figure that’s rising.

 “What’s more, 95 per cent of small businesses have no experience of using the current non-European Economic Area visa system. Any new immigration system must minimise costs and admin for small business owners. Otherwise, we risk a real shock to the economy.

“Timing is also critical. Small firms will need sufficient time to adjust. This preparation period would also allow space for renewed efforts to increase apprenticeship starts and training to have an impact.

 “The new system must steer clear of blunt tools that could damage business growth, not least salary thresholds and immigration skills surcharges.”    

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