UK work permits: Skilled foreign workers 'important'

05 Jul 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The conditions surrounding UK work permits have been called into question by a number of business groups.

Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, recently stated that businesses in Britain should prioritise employment of people from this country instead of recruiting workers from abroad.

His comments follow significant changes to the UK work permit system, in which the coalition government introduced an annual cap on Tier 2 work permits and tightened up the conditions under which they can be issued.

However, David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, responded to Mr Duncan Smith's remarks with concern.

"Businesses in this country need to have a highly skilled workforce and for many firms that means employing migrants," stated Mr Frost. "Employers need staff who can read, write and communicate properly, and our young people often lack these basic skills needed for the workplace."

He added that stemming the flow of skilled migrants into the UK will not be instrumental in encouraging more British workers into jobs. This has more to do with offering young people the "right skills at school in the first place, and [an] overhaul [of] our welfare system so it incentivises people to move into employment".

Meanwhile, Paul Griffin, head of employment law at DBS, told BBC's Radio 4 that employers need to be mindful of the law in this situation.

"Any favouring of British workers above those from the EU or anywhere else if they have the right to work here, could make an employer liable for a claim for direct race discrimination under the Equalities Act," he said.