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International employees, more diligent than UK workers

In London, 64% of employers have non-UK residents as part of their workforce

12 November 2008. 15% of entrepreneurs employing foreign workers believe their international employees have a better work ethos than their UK colleagues; almost one in five (17%) cite the lack of skilled workers in the UK as a reason for employing migrant workers.

Research by entrepreneur think tank Tenon Forum reveals that the number of small and medium businesses (SMEs) employing migrant workers has more than doubled in the past two years. Nearly half of UK SMEs (48%) are now saying that they employ non-UK nationals compared to 21% in 2006.

The greatest proportion of entrepreneurs employing foreign workers is in London, where 64% of employers have non-UK residents as part of their workforce. The North West has the lowest number of SMEs employing migrant workers at 32%.

Many such employers opt for foreign workers due to dissatisfaction with UK employees.
On a more positive side, 17% of employers believe that having an international workforce has a positive impact on company culture; while 72% say they simply employ the best person for the job. Employers who recruit foreign labourers express fear for the future: as the UK economy faces increasingly difficult times and the pound continues to weaken, almost a third (29%) are concerned that foreign workers may choose to return home, to the detriment of their business. The new point-based immigration system may cause further problems: from 27 November 2008 employers wishing to bring non-EU migrants to the United Kingdom under tiers 2 and 5 will need to have a sponsorship licence.

However, the UK Border Agency said it received only 300 of the 20,000 expected applications by October. Only applications received on or before 1 October will be guaranteed a licence in time, said UKBA: the 60,000 employers who still need to apply are all at risk of breaking the law come December.

“With so many entrepreneurial businesses now employing non-UK nationals”, Andrew Jupp, National Head of Tax at Tenon, commented, “it is vital that managers make themselves fully aware of the new points based system for employing migrant workers – or they could be faced with fines of up to £10,000 per illegal employee.

“In times of such economic uncertainty, entrepreneurs need to make sure they have procedures in place which will protect their business from unnecessary disruption, and staff turnover is no exception,” he added.

However, according to the Tenon Forum research, nearly a third of entrepreneurs (30%) say that they do not currently employ foreign workers and have no intention of doing so in the future; almost half (47%) claim that this is simply because they do not receive applications from international workers; 28 per cent are keen to support their community by employing local residents; and nearly a quarter (23%) admit that they have concerns about potential language barriers.

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