30th June 2010: The new cap on immigrants could also force employers to pay for migrant workers’ private health care. Among the options being considered alongside the cap is a proposal that employers wanting to hire non- European workers should pick up their private health care bill to avoid placing "burden" on the NHS.
Businesses have reluctantly backed the government’s planned immigration cap but drew the line at the private health care proposal.
The Home Secretary Theresa May on Monday has announced a 12-week consultation to decide on a permanent annual limit on the number of non-European arrivals entering the UK – a key promise in the Conservative election campaign.
An immediate temporary cap on non-EU immigrants, announced on Tuesday and due from July 16 will also mean that just 24,100 workers from outside Europe can enter the country before April 2011 – a fall of five percent on last year.
Expected next April, the cap will aim to reduce net immigration from 176,000 a year "to tens of thousands". Companies wanting to hire from outside the Europe may also be forced to offer apprenticeships to British workers.
The employers’ groups, concerned over the blanket cap feel it can lead to harming the UK’s competitiveness.
John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director-General, says that introducing a cap for work permits is a suitable way of balancing the need for skilled workers with the social pressures caused by immigration.
He adds at the same time it is important that ‘we’ get the structure right. It should be designed so that very highly-skilled people who are essential to work being done in Britain can get a permit more readily.
Other employers’ groups were alarmed at the prospect of companies paying for migrant workers’ health care costs. A Federation of Small Businesses spokesman asserts that this will be the death knell of small employers being able to employ the best person for the job.
John Philpott, Chief Economist at The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, adds that the employers will not look on this favourably. They will be weary of any measures that make it difficult and more costly to hire the staff that they need.
However, some of the employers agree that the health care proposal was rational if it encouraged employers to recruit British workers before going abroad.