Recruitment or Immigration Crisis : a look at the HGV Driver shortage banner


Recruitment or Immigration Crisis : a look at the HGV Driver shortage

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We all like to blame someone for our woes and that is what it feels like when you read the newspaper reports about the shortage of HGV drivers. With some newspapers raising the fear factor with talk of food shortages because of lack of transportation our immigration solicitors look at whether the current HGV driver shortage is down to a recruitment or business immigration crisis.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors

City of London based OTS Solicitors are specialists in business immigration law. If your business needs advice on business immigration solutions or applying for a sponsor licence call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

 Britain isn’t working

With headlines such as ‘Britain isn’t working’ the immediate thought is that all the HGV drivers, that the UK is so desperately short of, must be sitting at home. To some in the media, the UK furlough scheme, once lauded as the pride of the UK, is an excuse for the UK to not get back to work.

Whilst COVID-19 related lockdowns have inevitably meant that some people haven’t been able to work and have had to resort to the furlough scheme, most HGV drivers have worked throughout the global pandemic, delivering the goods needed to shops and homes throughout the UK.

So, if the furlough scheme isn’t responsible for the HGV driver crisis, then what is?

Most of us know that if COVID-19 can't be blamed for something then the next culprit is normally Brexit, depending on your politics and your views on the advantages or disadvantages of the end of free movement for EU nationals.

The reality is that the HGV driver crisis is down to a multitude of factors, such as:

  • It is said that the Brexit effect has meant that since 2019 about 1.3 million EU nationals have left the UK.
  • The continued exodus of EU nationals leaving the UK to return home because of COVID-19 and the desire to be with their family or to protect their loved ones by taking their family back to their home country where COVID-19 infection rates are lower.
  • EU nationals perceiving that working in the UK as an HGV driver would be too much hassle after Brexit and the end of free movement of goods.
  • Goods not being available for HGV drivers to deliver because of global and national supply chain issues. For example, HGV drivers can't transport fresh fruit or vegetables around the UK if the fruit and vegetables haven’t been picked because of a shortage of overseas agricultural workers. The end of free movement has meant the annual flow of EU pickers has almost stopped as they can pick seasonal fruit in other countries where they don’t have to face the hassle of having to get a seasonal worker temporary visa.
  • EU and Non-EEA nationals are now treated the same way for immigration control purposes. This means EU nationals who weren’t living and working in the UK before the 31 December 2020 or who didn’t apply for settled status by the 30 June 2021 now require a work visa, such as a skilled worker visa. There is no separate transport worker visa or separate lower skilled visa.
  • UK employers wanting to employ overseas workers need a Home Office issued sponsor licence. Many UK employers are applying for their first sponsor licence as their supply of EU national workers is drying up. However, for some jobs, a sponsor licence to employ a skilled migrant worker isn’t the answer. That’s because to secure as skilled worker visa the applicant must be applying for a job that is a Home Office approved eligible occupation with a SOC code. A read of the SOC list reveals that estate agents and solicitors are on the list but not HGV drivers. Some may question whether we really need more estate agents and solicitors in the UK but most would understand the need for HGV drivers.

Where do we go from here

The short answer is nowhere fast in a lorry as HGV drivers are thin on the ground. The BBC has questioned whether the government has plans to include the HGV driver occupation as a standard occupational code for the skilled worker visa or place the job on the shortage occupation list. That way lorry drivers would be able to apply for a skilled worker visa if they could find a sponsoring employer and their job met the required skill level and the minimum salary threshold.

The government  has apparently vetoed adding HGV drivers to the list of occupations eligible to apply for a skilled worker visaon the basis that the haulage industry can train HGV drivers though that begs the question why plumbers and various types of managers are on the SOC list when UK workers can presumably be trained in the UK or promoted to managerial posts. The government has increased the hours lorry drivers can work for but many UK employers are unhappy with that approach as it simply heaps pressure on their existing employees.

Is the crisis confined to lorry drivers? 

Most UK employers would say that the recruitment crisis isn’t confined to lorry drivers. The construction industry and the hospitality sector are regularly in the news as sectors where employers are really struggling to fill vacancies. Whilst in those sectors of the economy some jobs may fit in a few SOC codes, and thus qualify for a skilled worker visa, many of the entry level jobs don’t. As there is no lower skilled worker visa the employers can't recruit from overseas and even if the vacancy does just fall within the skilled worker visa category the employer has to offer the minimum salary threshold or going rate for the job making the cost of recruitment too expensive to justify for some entry level jobs.

Some would say that bizarrely international students may be the short-term answer to part of the UK recruitment crisis. That is because the graduate visa, introduced on the 1 July 2021, enables overseas graduates to apply for a graduate visa to enable them to remain in the UK after completion of their studies. However, unlike the skilled worker visa, a graduate doesn’t need a job offer from a sponsoring employer and isn’t restricted to the type of employment they can do or to minimum salary threshold rules. The drawback is that a graduate visa only last two years or three years if the graduate has a PhD. Immigration solicitors, with a sense of humour, are questioning which universities will be offering graduation as an HGV lorry driver.

Can OTS Solicitors help your business?   

If you are facing a recruitment crisis in your industry or sector there may be business immigration solutions that can be explored, such as the temporary visa, skilled worker visa, intra company transfer visa or even the frontier work permit. It is therefore best to have a conversation with a business immigration solicitor to see if they can come up with innovative solutions for your business.

UK Online and London Based Business Immigration Solicitors

London based OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration law and are recommended in the two leading law directories, Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and Legal 500. For proactive expert advice on all your business immigration law, employment law and company law needs contact OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.

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