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News & Views UK imposes tough new curbs on chef recruitment

As part of its continuing efforts to curb immigration, the UK government has imposed tough new restrictions on chefs from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Although skilled chefs as a group remain on the short- age list, there are new, and tough, criteria the employers will have to to comply with.

From the 6th April 2011, those out- side the EEA looking for employment in the UK as a chef must be educated to graduate level, have a minimum of five years previous experience in a role of at least equivalent status to the one they are entering, seek a job in a fast food or standard fare outlet and be paid a minimum of £28,260 per year after deductions for accommodation, meals The Home Office said it will addition- ally rule out chefs being recruited to work in establishments that provide a takeaway service.

As highlighted by Spice Business and various trade organisations, such as the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs, such tough restrictions will have an adverse impact on curry restaurants which have traditionally drawn skilled and experienced chefs from places like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The announcement is certain to trig- ger renewed protests from the spice restaurant industry, with many facing tough times ahead if these restrictions remain in place.

Immigration minister Damian Green has claimed that, “These changes to the shortage occupation list will ensure that only skilled workers are coming to the UK through tier two of the points-based system. It will allow firms to bring in people with necessary skills without migrants becoming the first resort to fill a wide range of avail- able jobs.”

More than one million jobs were open to skilled non-EU migrants when the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) produced its first shortage occupation list in 2008. The change means that the list will now mainly include skilled engineers, jobs in medical, nursing and

Spice Business Magazine

veterinary professions, maths and sci- ence teachers, visual effects and com- puter animators and some ballet and contemporary dancers and musicians.

In December 2010, the government asked the MAC to advise on how the current shortage occupation lists for the UK and Scotland could be revised to remove jobs below graduate level. Chair of the MAC, Professor David Metcalf, comments, “Placing limits on migration requires that we are far more selective and ensure only highly skilled migrant workers can come to work in the UK. For instance, only the top 5% of chef jobs will be open to Tier 2 workers under these recommenda- tions as a result of a more stringent earnings threshold.”

But Martin-Christian Kent, research and policy director at People 1st, believes the the implications could be critical for some businesses. He says, “Larger ethnic restaurant businesses, especially in large towns and cities, will face the most problems, as well as those that want to expand, or need to replace staff.” Mr Kent also points out that that the industry now has a moun- tain to climb because demand for UK born chefs with ethnic cooking skills has simply not existed. He adds, “The main problem is that there is no steady pool of skilled Asian and Oriental chefs waiting to enter the industry. While hundreds of colleges deliver chef courses, very few offer ethnic chef programmes.”


The British Hospitality Association has also complained and says the industry has not been listened to by the govern- ment. A spokesman points out, “Many sectors of the industry rely on migrants from non EU countries and the stipula- tion that any future chefs brought into the country should be at graduate level and at high salary levels will more or less preclude them all. Specialised ethnic chefs, with years of experience in their own country, cannot be repli- cated in this country. “

Spice Business has led a long cam- paign to ensure fairness and flexibility to allow restaurants to bring quali- fied, skilled chefs from overseas. As editor Enam Ali points out, “ We do not need graduates in our kitchens but experienced chefs who can create the authentic dishes that customers in the UK demand. This change in the immigration rules will surely affect the curry industry and we may see the clo- sure of more restaurants.”

Spice Business is urging the govern- ment to review this policy which risks losing jobs in one of the most success- ful sector of the economy - and with only a year to go to the Olympic games when huge numbers of visitors are expected in the country. Enam says, ”These visitors are going to come expecting to sample the British curry that is famous the world over. But if we have to use only chefs from inside the European Union they may well end up very disappointed.”

March 2011

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