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Britons at risk of lower pay than migrants under new visa salary rules

UK Workers
UK Workers

British workers are at risk of being paid less than their foreign counterparts doing the same job when visa salary requirements are increased in April, lawyers have warned.

Experts said that an increase in the salary threshold to £38,700 is likely to create a situation where companies struggling to overcome labour shortages end up paying their foreign employees more than British ones, experts say.

The Government announced in December that it would raise the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers by nearly 50pc from £26,200 as part of efforts to bring down net migration figures ahead of the election.


Rose Carey, a partner specialising in business immigration at City law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said: “It is something that we are looking at because we have realised clients might be in this position, which is completely at odds with what the government wanted to do.”

Employers may find “they are having to pay somebody from abroad more than somebody from the UK because they cannot recruit”, Ms Carey said.

She said: “You could end up with this situation where you have UK workers on £30,000 to £33,000 and then you have workers from overseas on £38,700.”

Charles Russell Speechlys advises some of the UK’s largest employers.

The announcement came after the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics on net migration showed that nearly 700,000 more migrants were in the UK in the year ending in June 2023 than 123 months earlier.

Paul McGrath, partner in the employment practice at firm McDermott Will & Emery, also warned the policy change could bring unintended consequences.

He said: “For some employers who currently rely heavily on non-UK workers for lower and medium skilled roles that have historically been difficult to fill in the resident labour market, there could be a temptation to increase current salaries to ensure that short-term staffing needs can continue to be met by migrant workers.

“Employers ought to think carefully about any potential wider employment law implications, such as the risk of creating unlawful pay inequalities.”

Employment lawyers said there had been a rush of applications from firms for visas for skilled workers to beat the April 4 deadline when salary thresholds rise.

This could in itself push up the numbers ministers are trying to bring down, they warned.

The next set of statistics will likely be released in November, around the same time as the general election is expected.

Annabel Mace, a partner at top law firm Squire Patton Boggs said: “This has happened at the same time as the application fees going up so you would think that would put employers off but actually we’re busier than ever.

“There is certainly an effort to get applications in. Initially, there might be an increase or bump this year.

”Overall, I’m not convinced that this will make a massive dent in the net migration figures.”