The Migration Advisory Committee’s Brexit report recommendations have left the leisure and hospitality sector reeling, writes Claire Taylor-Evans, senior associate – solicitor at law firm Boyes Turner.

The much anticipated Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report was published yesterday and delivered a crushing blow to the leisure and hospitality industry.

The MAC was commissioned to report and advise the government on post-Brexit immigration policy and has recommended that a new British immigration system should not give any preferential access to EEA citizens and should instead be modelled on the current Tier 2 system that applies to immigration from outside Europe.

This system involves employers registering as sponsors before employing migrants and imposes onerous recording and reporting duties, and minimum skill and salary levels. Additionally, the MAC proposed that the unpopular immigration skills charge, a tax on businesses using migrants from outside the EEA, should be extended to EEA workers, increasing costs for employers.

This will be unwelcome news for many businesses in the leisure and hospitality industry who rely heavily on EEA workers, who perform essential, but not necessarily highly-skilled, roles.

Some industry groups had hoped that the MAC would take on board their concerns that the industry’s labour supply would ”fall off a cliff edge” post Brexit but the MAC, whilst noting these concerns, recommended that there be no sector based system for lower skilled work (with the possible exception of seasonal agricultural workers).

There were some helpful concessions, the removal of the Resident Labour Market test (the arbitrary recruitment test to ensure the domestic labour market is not bypassed) and the abolition of the cap on visas, which has affected many companies’ access to highly skilled talent. However, this will not assist with filling lower skilled roles. The MAC has suggested that the current skill level of RQF level 6, essentially degree level, be reduced to RQF level 3, which may bring some additional positions into play but with the minimum salary level set at £30,000, most roles will not meet this threshold.

The MAC did suggest that the Youth Mobility Scheme, (a temporary work route for young people from certain countries) might be extended which may help but it is unlikely to cover the gap created by an estimated seven hundred thousand EEA workers leaving the hospitality industry, longer term.

The government will now consider the proposals and will produce a White Paper on immigration policy later this year.

What can the hospitality industry do now?

It is sensible to consider registering as a sponsor and take steps to help your existing EEA workers register for settled or pre-settled status under the transitional arrangements to ensure they can stay with you after Brexit.