19 February 2020
Angela McGowan, Director of CBI NI said:
“Getting a new immigration system right on day one will be critical for economic growth and the UK’s global reputation as it forges a new path outside the EU.
“Northern Irish firms recognise that change is coming and have sought a system that is both open and controlled, values people’s contribution beyond their salary and works for all parts of the UK.
“Several aspects of the new system will be welcomed by business, expanding the pilot seasonal agricultural workers scheme, abolishing the cap on skilled visas, introducing a new post-study work visa for overseas students, and reducing the minimum salary threshold from £30,000.
“Nevertheless, the proposed new system continues to pose real challenges for businesses in Northern Ireland. Key sectors, in particular our vital agri-food industry, will be concerned about how they can recruit people across all levels of skill they need, not only to grow but to fulfil existing commitments.
“Against a backdrop of a highly competitive labour market and a declining working age population, many Northern Irish firms, even those fully committed to investing in training and development, need migrant workers to grow and compete.
“Further consideration must be given to how the new system can be implemented across all regions and nations of the UK. That means looking at ways to improve flexibility and market responsiveness, including through regularly reviewed shortage occupation lists.
“Above all, the government must work with employers and employees - especially smaller firms - to ensure they have the time to adapt to new policies and practices.”