Companies will have to reveal how many non-British staff they employ under government plans to shame firms who do not hire UK workers.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference yesterday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she wanted to “change the tide” of public opinion on immigration in the wake of the Brexit vote.
She accused firms of “getting away” with not training enough British workers, instead relying in cheap migrant labour, and said rules requiring firms to advertise a vacancy in the UK for 28 days before advertising elsewhere should be tightened up.
Under the proposals, companies hoping to recruit foreign staff will have to show what they have done to “foster a pool of local candidates” and show what impact their decision to hire foreign staff will have on the local labour market.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday morning, Ms Rudd said that “naming and shaming” companies that do not hire enough British workers was “not something we are definitely going to do”, but she could use it as “as a way of nudging people into better behaviour”.
The plans are likely to meet strong opposition from businesses, however, and cannot apply to companies who employ EU workers until after Brexit.
The Times quotes Lord Bilimoria, who co-founded of Cobra beer, who said the plan was “absolutely shocking”, while Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce said: “It would be a sad day if having a global workforce was seen as a badge of shame.”
Mr Rudd hit back at the criticism, saying: “We musn’t ignore the fact that people want to talk about immigration and if we talk about immigration, don’t call me a racist.”
Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of Migration Watch UK, also defended the proposals, saying they could “bring daylight on a very important issue”.
“If companies are genuinely taking full account of the need to train a British workforce they have nothing to fear,” he added.
In the run-up to the Brexit vote, a study from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory found that three in four EU workers in Britain would have been barred from working in the UK if it were not for Brussels rules on free movement.
Britain’s visa rules may be designed so that the UK only takes migrants with the skills that it needs, but due to Brussels diktats, citizens of EU countries can live and work in Britain freely. Ending this will be one of the key tasks for the government as it negotiates a Brexit deal.