UK recruiter slams new pay rules for immigrant IT workers

A UK recruitment expert has criticised the revised pay thresholds which will apply to overseas IT workers after a recent review.

George Molyneux of Salary Services/jobadswatch, an expert in IT recruitment, says that the new pay thresholds, which have been recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee, are 'flawed, meaningless and don't do UK IT professionals any favours' according to Computer Weekly magazine.

In April, the government asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to update the list of occupations that qualify for Tier 2 of the UK's Points Based System. It was also asked to advise on the Codes of Practice Framework and also to 'advise on the minimum appropriate pay for occupations and (as appropriate) job titles, taking into account the minimum salary threshold for the Tier 2 route and identifying, where necessary, separate occupation specific minimum salaries for both new entrants and experienced employees.'

To that end, the MAC undertook a public consultation in May 2012 before making its recommendations.

Mr Molyneux has issued a statement criticising the MAC's recommendations. He limited his criticisms to the IT trade, which is the area he knows best. It reads 'In the view of Salary Services Ltd/jobadswatch, the changes being implemented do not reflect the structure and salary levels of personnel working in IT and effectively means that the criteria being applied to grant visas to non-EEA IT workers is flawed'.

In particular, he says that the MAC has grouped together such wide ranges of jobs and skills in one grouping that a 'meaningless set of salary figures [is] being applied by UKBA'.

Mr Molyneux says that the MAC has grouped together widely different IT roles as if they were the same. 'To state that a programmer on a current pay threshold of £26,000 equates to a senior developer on a threshold of 37,400 seems odd. If they had broadly similar responsibilities, why such a large difference in pay?' He also questions the fact that the MAC has said in its report that an 'entry-level IT director would be paid £25,300 per year. Mr Molyneux asks 'what on earth does that mean? Does the MAC really believe there are IT directors at any level earning just £25,300?'

The MAC listened to recruiters who responded to its consultation in May who said that analyst programmers, software engineers and developers performed similar roles and so has lumped them together in one group. But Mr Molyneux asks why, if the roles are so similar, 'do employers advertise all these roles under different job titles? The answer is that the job functions are not the same,' he said.

Mr Molyneux also questions the new pay thresholds recommended by the MAC. The MAC has recommended that employers should no longer have to pay median earnings to foreign workers. It has recommended that the pay threshold should now be placed at the 25th percentile of average pay. However, Mr Molyneux says that this is a mistake. He says that the outsourcing of UK IT functions to Indian companies has had a severe effect on UK IT professionals. The number of jobs advertised in the UK is down by 68.9% on the level before 2008, when the UK's points based immigration system was introduced.

He says that figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that UK-born Computer Science graduates are already among the most likely to be unemployed in the UK. Reducing the pay threshold to 25% of average earnings will increase the pay differential yet further and result in greater unemployment for UK-born IT professionals.

Mr Molyneux said 'Since the year 2000, the UK has become more and more reliant on foreign-based companies, all requiring their own staff to be based in the UK to support their operations. The time has come to curtail this.'

Not everyone agrees. In 2011, Mike Lynch, the former CEO of UK software company Autonomy, said that the UK needed to welcome more IT professionals in order to boost IT employment.

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