The British Cleaning Council (BCC) has said it is ‘very worried and concerned’ about the ‘huge’ possible impact of Government proposals to introduce an ‘Australian-style points-based’ immigration system from 2021.
The BCC, which is the industry body for the cleaning sector, fears plans to restrict visas for lower-skilled, lower-paid overseas workers will cause serious labour shortages in the cleaning sector, which is one of the largest industries in the UK, worth £49.9bn and employing 914,000 people.
BCC research released last year showed that cleaning sector workers tend to have lower levels of qualifications, with migrants making up 19 per cent of the workforce and average pay at £8.42 per hour.
The research, which was conducted well before the immigration rule changes were proposed, predicted that 93,000 new cleaning jobs would be created by 2024.
Paul Thrupp, Chairman of the BCC, said: “We are very worried and concerned by the huge impact these proposals will have on the cleaning sector, if they are introduced.
“The cleaning sector was expected to thrive over the next few years, creating thousands of jobs.
“Instead, these proposals would strangle our industry by cutting off easy access to the lower skilled, lower paid, overseas workers we rely on.
“With the lowest UK unemployment for years, there is no chance of UK-born workers being able to take up the slack and fill the vacancies. This has serious implications across the economy.
“Health and safety will suffer through lower hygiene standards, because cleaners have a vital role in all sectors, including healthcare and all industries such as chemicals and manufacturing. It will hit the environment, because of the role of our colleagues in street-cleaning, waste and recycling. Cleaning is also important to the success of many enterprises such as hotels and restaurants.
“Cleaning businesses could shrink or close because of this labour shortage. Because of the sheer size and the number of people the sector employs, this in turn, will also affect the UK economy and damage growth.
“We are calling on the Government to rethink their proposals and ensure the rules are loosened for the cleaning sector, to let in the less qualified workers we rely on.”
If the new immigration system is approved by Parliament, after Brexit, overseas citizens would have to reach 70 points to be able to work in the UK.
Speaking English and having the offer of a skilled job with an “approved sponsor” would give them 50 points.
More points would be awarded for qualifications and working in a sector with shortages. Skilled workers would generally need to be earning £25,600, though this could be lowered for ‘specific shortage occupations.