Work permit changes 'could end world cuisine' in UK

23 Oct 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The future of world cuisine could be at risk if the government presses ahead with the removal of skilled chefs from the migration shortage occupation list.

This is the view expressed by a group of restaurants operating in Britain. Zuma, Masala Zone, Busaba Eathai and others have come together to address the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in a recent article published in Big Hospitality, which highlighted the potential damage such action could cause to the industry.

MAC is currently reassessing the occupations in Britain that are in need of extra staff and is set to report back to the Home Office at the end of January 2013 with a revised list of jobs. Included in the positions that might be recommended for removal are skilled chefs. They could either be recommended for immediate removal or set up for a 'sunset clause' that would see them drop off the shortage list in about two years.

If these changes were to be approved, restaurants would be face great difficulty in employing chefs from countries outside of the European Economic Community (EEC).

Jale Erentok, managing director at Busaba Eathai, told the publication that his company has already been affected by changes to UK work permit access to the extent that it has been forced to reconsider plans to bring more Asian operations to Britain. Busaba Eathai is now focusing its expansion efforts on China and the Middle East instead.

Meanwhile, Ross Shonhan, founder of Bone Daddies, explained that it takes time to pass on knowledge of specific cuisines and the need for these skilled individuals is instant. Removing access to them by altering the immigration regulations could put a serious spanner in the works.

As things stand at the moment, skilled chefs are on the occupation shortages list and can be employed by British companies so long as they have a minimum annual salary of £28,260.

While the government acknowledges that the job is indeed skilled, the reassessment could decide that the position is not sufficiently in demand in the UK for it to warrant a place on the list. This has left restaurants and industry members fighting to prove that there is a national shortage and that the posts could not be filled by Brits.