Government closes migrant worker loophole

The UK Border Agency pre-empted a report from the Migration Advisory Committee(MAC)...

The UK Border Agency pre-empted a report from the Migration Advisory Committee(MAC) about the Intra Company Transfer (ICT) scheme for migrant workers by ruling, earlier thismonth, that ICT could not be used to replace settled workers.

The fact that the government has put this in writing as a clause will go some way to eliminating the alleged abuse of the system.

This rule has always been the case, but was not clear, said George Anastasi, spokesman at the Professional Contractors Group. "We are pleased that the government has put this in black and white. We are seeking clarification of what this means in detail."

The UK Border Agency announcedchanges to the points-based systemon 7 August and revised its guidance for employers and education providers who sponsor migrant workers and students.

It added an additional requirement to the ICT rulethat "a migrant employed under ICT must not be directly replacing a settled worker".

Peter Skyte , national officer at Unite, said the requirement that has been added was originally part of the ICT rules but had dissapeared in later versions. "It was the result of pressure from Unite that this was put back in."

According to the Border Agencywebsite, a settled worker is "a person who is a national of the European Economic Area or is legally settled in the United Kingdom with permission to work here. In some cases, an employer who wants to employ a person who is not a permanent resident must show that no settled worker could be found to take the job."

Mark Lewis, partner and head of outsourcing at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, said the changes outlined by the UK Border Agency suggestedthat Indianoutsourcers cannot sendsomeone to the UK to replace an existing worker. "This doesgo further than what is described in the immigration rules, but it is open to interpretation."

Bending the rules

The MAC carried out the report in response to complaints about overuse and misuse of the ICT scheme, particularly in the IT sector.

The scheme was introduced to allow businesses to bring in people with important skills that the company could not source within the UK. But IT contractors claimed these rules were being used to replace UK staff with lower-cost labour.

Robert Morgan, director at Hamilton Bailey, which advises outsourcing service providers, said this hadalways been the case.

He added that suppliers get around this rule by bringing them in for projects which by definition are not permanent, but "can last many years".

IT contractor Sean Key, who has set up a petition to stop this abuse, said of the ICT scheme,"[It] bypasses other schemes, such as the skilled migrants points system, which work fairly based on national need and individual migrants' skills. This is allowing the displacement of tens of thousands of workers, particularly in IT.

Read more on IT for government and public sector