The hospitality industry fears “a chronic skills shortage” after the government announced that a future immigration system will prioritise high-skilled workers.
Trade association UKHospitality warned that the prime minister’s promise of a drop in low-skilled migration following Brexit will have a significant impact on hospitality jobs.
Theresa May also said that there would be no preferential treatment for people from the European Union over those from the rest of the world.
“The new skills-based system will make sure low-skilled immigration is brought down and set the UK on the path to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, as we promised,” May said.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls commented: “A system based solely on high skills and high wages will not work for hospitality where we have labour shortages.
“The sector employs over three million people, many of whom are migrant workers, but under the new policy 90% of these roles could not be filled under planned changes.
“Many hospitality businesses have struggled to find willing British workers and, with changing demographics and low unemployment, we are facing the very real danger of chronic skills shortages.”
The UK defines low-skilled roles as ones which do not require post-16 education or more than a short period of on-the-job training.
The Confederation of British Industry said that “restricting access to the workers the UK needs is self-defeating”, while the British Retail Consortium said the policy should be based on the economy’s needs rather than “arbitrarily” drawing a line based on salaries or skills.
Nicholls concluded: “UKHospitality has repeatedly flagged that is it illogical to place so much emphasis on the economic worth of individuals, rather than the wider benefits they bring to the UK. We will be pressing the government for a sensible and pragmatic lower skilled migrant worker route for the hospitality sector.”