The UK’s community of self-employed workers and freelancers has welcomed a new report by the government’s advisory body on migration issues – the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) – which recommends an overhaul of the “Intra-Company Transfer” (ICT) system on UK visas for skilled workers.
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), which is the largest association of independent professionals in the EU and represents over 67,000 freelancers, has issued a statement urging the government to adopt proposals set out by the MAC that aim to limit abuse of the ICT system.
The ICT system exists to address skills shortages in specific sectors, making the transfer of specialised staff across the globe easier. But, according to the IPSE, firms abuse the current system by bringing in lower cost workers to minimise wage bills and service outsourcing contracts, with the UK’s IT sector particularly culpable.
The MAC proposals include increasing the existing minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 migrants to £30,000, the introduction of an immigration skills charge and a tightening of the ICT route to prioritise highly specialised staff. It is hoped such measures will reduce the reliance on migrant workers and encourage employers to invest in training UK staff.
Commenting on the news, IPSE CEO Chris Bryce said: “The ICT system is open to abuse. The proposals from the MAC are, we believe, a sensible approach to fix a system which is not fit for purpose.
“For many years we have been concerned that ICT permits are open to abuse from clients seeking to minimise wage bills, and IT contractors can find themselves unfairly displaced by workers from large IT outsourcing firms,” he continued.
The MAC report also recommended that third-party contracting should have its own category within the visa system, with individuals brought in under such contracts being paid a minimum of £41,500. It demonstrated that bringing in migrants to service third-party IT contracts cuts costs for UK companies but did not sufficiently contribute to skills shortages in the sector.
“This report is recognition of a problem which has been dogging the UK’s IT industry for years, and many contractors have contacted IPSE with their concerns in this time,” Bryce went on to say.
“These recommendations must now be taken up by the government to ensure there is finally a level playing field for independent professionals running their own IT micro businesses.”
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