Tackle staff shortages by relaxing immigration rules, says HBAA

The Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) has backed a major business lobby group’s call for the government to relax post-Brexit immigration rules in response to staff shortages across various industries.

“HBAA strongly believes that every industry hit by staff shortages should unite to press the government for visa flexibility,” HBAA consultant executive director Juliet Price said.

The new post-Brexit immigration policy is making it harder for non-UK workers to gain working permits, and industries that previously largely relied on this workforce, such as hospitality, are struggling to recruit.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the government needed to immediately update its ‘shortage occupations list’ after an estimated 1.3m non-UK workers are reported to have left the UK since late 2019.

Those applying for jobs in industries and sectors on the list will automatically receive 20 points towards the 70-point minimum required to work in the UK, under the new immigration rules.

The HBAA has backed CBI’s request to add other sectors to the list and was one of the signatories of a recent letter from the Event Industry Forum to the prime minister asking for a temporary ease of immigration requirements.

“HBAA has been highlighting for many years that the UK’s reputation for high-quality service in the meetings and events sector was in danger unless the imminent shortage of trained staff was addressed with government support,” Price added.

“Now our industry is one of many to be facing major threats to service delivery as the powerful combination of Brexit, lockdown, furlough and travel restrictions has created a harsh reality. Attraction and recruitment of new talent is becoming tougher and coupled with experienced staff leaving to work in other sectors, the issue is compounded.

“HBAA believes that, like the Event Industry Forum, every industry sector should not only support the CBI but also directly call on the government for short-term flexibility on visa conditions to allow EU based staff back to fill some of the vacancies.”

However, Karan Bilimoria, president of the CBI stresses that while non-UK workers would help in the short-term to fill vacancies, it’s essential that employers invest in the UK workforce. “It’s not an either-or choice. We must do both to ensure our firms have the access to people they need to succeed.”

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