How Will the UK's New Immigration Laws Affect the Workforce?

11 June 2024

The UK government has recently introduced a series of changes to its immigration policy, aimed at controlling and shaping the flow of foreign workers into the country. These changes come as part of the new points-based immigration system, which sets a higher threshold for potential migrants, focusing on attracting highly skilled workers to fill gaps in certain sectors. But what does this mean for the workforce in the UK? What impact will these new laws have on employment rates, salaries, and the overall health of the country's economy? Let's delve into the details.

Impact on Salary Levels

The implementation of the points-based immigration system will inevitably affect salary levels in the UK. The new rules require foreign workers to have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor, with a minimum salary threshold set at £25,600 per year for many roles.

This shift is aimed at attracting a higher level of skilled workers to the country. While this may lead to an increase in average wages for migrant workers, it's also expected to cause a shift in the overall salary landscape. Roles that were previously filled by lower-paid migrant workers may now need to be filled by UK nationals, potentially leading to wage increases in these sectors.

Conversely, the reduction in immigration may lead to a labour shortage in certain sectors, which could push up salaries as employers compete to attract the necessary workforce. However, there's also the risk that some businesses may struggle to sustain these higher wage costs, leading to potential closures or redundancies.

Effects on the Visa Process

The visa process for foreign workers coming to the UK will also undergo significant changes. The new system requires migrant workers to accumulate enough points to qualify for a visa. Points will be allocated based on a variety of factors such as language skills, educational qualifications, and the level of job offer.

The government has made it clear that those seeking to come to the UK to work will need to meet this criteria, and that the route to entry for lower-skilled, lower-paid workers will be significantly more challenging. This could lead to an increase in the administrative burden on businesses, particularly SMEs, who may struggle to navigate the complexities of the new immigration system.

The Shift towards Skilled Migration

The crux of the new immigration laws is a clear shift towards skilled migration. The government's aim is to fill the gaps in the UK's workforce with highly skilled and highly paid workers. This has been reflected in the changes to the visa system and the minimum salary threshold.

This change of focus could bring several benefits to the UK's economy. High-skilled workers contribute significantly to productivity and innovation, factors that are vital to economic health and growth. In addition, high-skilled migrants contribute significantly to the public purse, paying more in taxes and often requiring fewer public services.

However, there are concerns that this shift could create a shortage of workers in lower-skilled sectors. Many sectors, such as agriculture, hospitality, and social care have traditionally relied heavily on lower-skilled migrant workers. The new laws could therefore lead to significant labour shortages in these areas.

The Care Sector: A Case Study

Perhaps no sector will feel the impact of the new immigration laws more acutely than health and social care. This sector relies heavily on foreign workers, many of whom may not meet the new salary and skills thresholds.

The impact on the care sector could be twofold. Firstly, there could be a significant shortage of staff. This could lead to a decline in the quality of care provided and potentially, increased waiting times for care services. Secondly, care providers may need to increase wages to attract UK workers to fill these roles, potentially leading to increased care costs.

While the government has included senior care workers and nursing assistants on the Shortage Occupation List, potentially easing the visa process for these roles, it is still expected that the sector will face significant challenges in the coming year and beyond.

What's Going Forward?

It's clear that the new immigration laws will have profound effects on the UK's workforce and economy. The shift towards high-skilled migration may boost economic productivity and innovation, but it could also lead to labour shortages in lower-skilled sectors and potentially, higher wage costs for businesses.

The Government has stated that it will monitor the situation closely and adjust the system as necessary. However, it's clear that businesses, workers, and the public will need to adapt to a rapidly changing workforce landscape. The full impact of these changes remains to be seen, as the UK embarks on a new chapter in its immigration history.

Transitional Arrangements and Supplementary Employment

As the UK adjusts to the new immigration system, there are certain transitional arrangements in place to help businesses and industries adapt. Some of the professions in the Shortage Occupation List, such as civil engineers and nurses, are temporarily exempt from some of the new rules. This means that these sectors can continue to recruit foreign workers under the previous system while they adjust to the new rules.

Another key aspect of the new system is the introduction of a route for supplementary employment. This allows migrant workers to take on additional work in a different profession for up to 20 hours per week, provided it is at the same or higher skill level as their main job. This could potentially help fill gaps in the labour market and provide much-needed flexibility for businesses and workers.

However, critics argue that these transitional arrangements are just a temporary solution and don't address the underlying issues. There are concerns that the new system is too rigid and doesn't allow enough flexibility for the fluctuating needs of the labour market. The success of these arrangements will largely depend on how well they are monitored and adapted over time in response to the changing needs of the UK economy.

The Potential Impact on the Health Care Sector

The health care sector, which heavily relies on foreign workers, will most likely feel the impact of the new immigration rules. Under the current rules, many health and social care workers do not meet the new salary threshold and will find it challenging to qualify for a worker visa.

The government has attempted to address this issue by introducing a new Health and Care Visa. This visa has a lower salary threshold and is designed to make it easier for health and care professionals to come to the UK. However, this visa does not cover all roles in the health and social care sector, with many care workers, who are crucial to the sector, not qualifying for this visa.

The implications for the health care sector could be significant. If there are not enough workers available to meet demand, this could result in increased waiting times and a potential decline in the quality of care. Additionally, the potential for higher wages to attract local workers could increase the overall costs of services.

The government has stated that they will keep the situation under review and make changes as necessary. However, it remains to be seen whether these measures will be effective in ensuring that the health care sector and other key sectors have the workforce they need.


The new immigration laws represent a significant shift in the UK's approach to immigration, with a clear focus on attracting high-skilled workers. While this could potentially boost the UK's economy, there are also concerns about the potential impact on lower-skilled sectors and the potential for labour shortages and increased wage costs.

The Government has promised to monitor the situation closely and make adjustments as necessary. But for many sectors, particularly health and social care, the potential implications are significant. As the UK enters this new phase in its immigration history, it is clear that businesses, workers, and the public will need to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape.

The ultimate success of these new immigration laws will largely depend on how well they respond to the changing needs of the UK's economy and labour market. It remains to be seen whether the new system will prove to be a successful balance between controlling immigration and ensuring the health of the UK's economy and public services.

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