Non-EU workers may be compelled to buy health insurance

They are not covered for basic medical care by the EU rules
8th July 2010: Even as immigrant workers coming to the UK from Europe are covered for basic medical care by the EU rules, non-EU workers may eventually find themselves buying health insurance, as the government gears up to protect the NHS from unnecessary costs.

Already, among the options being considered alongside the cap on immigration 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.

Though the intention is not to have the migrant workers buy their own health insurance, as of now there is nothing to stop an employer from seeking a contribution to the cost from the worker.

The number of workers entering the UK from outside Europe is expected to be controlled by a new limit, as the government is ready to bring net migration back to the levels of the 1990s – to tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands.

Businesses have reluctantly backed the government’s planned immigration cap, but have drawn the line at the private health care proposal.

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 asserted 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, added that the employers would not look at this favourably. They would be weary of any measure that made it difficult and more costly to hire the staff they needed.

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