Migrant care workers’ hopes of being spared from deportation are being dashed by their employer’s reluctance to swallow the bitter pill of higher pay, as prescribed by the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA)
Earlier this week, Immigration Matters reported that the UK Government had backed down by granting a concession to in-country Senior Carers or allowing them to extend their Work Permits without the need to satisfy the new skills criteria.
The Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) introduced stringent new rules on Senior Carer Work Permits, following research which concluded that “Senior Care Worker positions which meet the Work Permit skills criteria are extremely rare”.
This presumably means the BIA expect the granting of new Senior Carer Work Permits to also be extremely rare.
In country workers don’t have to meet these conditions to extend their permits, but there is a twist. In order to extend the Work Permit, their employers will be required to pay what the BIA considers the going rate for the “extremely rare” Senior Carer, £7.02 per hour (£14,600 based on a 40 hour week).
Some employers have no problem with this figure and many, particularly in London and the South East, already pay £7.00 per hour or more to senior staff. Pay rates obviously vary considerably regionally as do the rates paid for beds by Local Authorities.
But many, including some of the larger employers, appear to be balking at the new higher salary: just over £3,000 more than the current “minimum” for a Senior Carer or, put another way, a 25% rise.
Until the end of 2006, the Home Office approved Work Permits for Senior Carers as long as they were paid more than £11,500. This figure has not increased for over four years and not everyone pays the minimum rate.
The dilemma for most employers is that increasing pay for a few overseas care workers, by up to £3,000, would mean giving all their care staff a bumper pay rise.
They would also have the rest of their overseas staff complaining that their permits had been renewed on a lower rate of pay. And what do they tell staff on Work Permits, currently on £11,500 or £12,000, which do not need renewing at all?
For the major groups like Southern Cross, Britain’s biggest private care provider employing over 40,000 staff, this will have a massive effect on payroll costs. Staff costs can be as high as 80% of turnover in the industry.
We have asked Southern Cross to comment on this issue and are awaiting their reply.
This will do nothing to ease the care staffing crisis and one wonders if Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, has really helped the industry or handed it a poison chalice?
The combined total of overseas care workers employed by just three of the majors – Southern Cross, Four Seasons and Barchester – probably runs into thousands. Overall numbers of overseas Senior Carers working in the UK are estimated at 25,000.
The lucky ones will have permits and visas taking them beyond ‘five years continuous work’ and get them over the redrawn line for ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ or residency.
Others will find themselves trapped like rabbits in a snare. Unable to move jobs, due to new restrictions on Work Permits, they will be resigned to waiting for the day when their permit runs out and the hunter moves in for the kill.
If you you have been refused a Senior Carer Work Permit and would like advice on what to do next or possible alternatives, please email Charles Kelly
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For some people at least the fight goes on.