Proposals for a true Points Based System - the solution for employers? - Boodle Hatfield

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21 Nov 2023

Proposals for a true Points Based System – the solution for employers?

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Zoe Jacob View profile
2 min read

The Work Rights Centre recently published an insightful report on the exploitation of migrant workers. The report identifies that 89% of referrals under the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (‘NRM’) – the framework for identifying and supporting potential victims of Modern Slavery, were in respect of non-UK nationals and that migrants are overrepresented in industries deemed to ‘dangerous’.

The thesis of the report is that “in its current configuration, the Points Based System (which includes the Skilled Worker provisions) is ill-equipped to mitigate the risk of migrant worker exploitation”. It casts doubt on the Home Office’s ability to monitor the institutions to whom sponsor licences are granted, given the sheer volume of sponsor licences granted since Brexit. This makes the system open to abuse by a malignant minority.

Of course, the majority of employers are not exploiting their migrant populations. For these employers, keen to ensure that their migrant workers are protected from exploitation, the proposals the Work Rights Centre make for immigration reform are of great interest. Most significantly, there is a proposal to move away from a system a focussed on sponsorship, and towards a genuine points based system i.e. a system that would allow a Skilled Worker to obtain a visa based on their levels of English, qualifications and experience in the relevant field rather than being tied to particular role, with a particular employer. 

If the government were to implement these reforms there would, in our view, be a significant benefit not only to migrant employees but also to employers, as follows: 

  • There would be a shift of the burden of compliance responsibility for Skilled Workers from the employer to the Home Office;
  • There would likely be reduction in the ever increasing costs of sponsoring overseas migrants as an Immigration Skills Charge would be inappropriate in this context; and
  • There would be increased flexibility to match the right individuals to the right jobs – for example an applicant for a job which involved specialist artisanal skills, which required a lower level of English language ability than a professional services role, would be able to score points based predominantly on their experience and qualifications.

The question is if and when, given the current political climate, there will be governmental appetite to consider the proposed reforms seriously. 

"The exploitation of migrant workers is not coincidental, but the outcome of a system; an inadequate and increasingly hostile national policy environment, which for too long has prioritised enforcing immigration controls, but has left the enforcement of workers' rights insufficiently supported. We believe that this system normalises injustice and needs to be changed."

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