The British Furniture Manufacturers Association (BFM) has been in contact with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to seek clarification on the impact of proposals for migrant workers in the industry.
In January, the MAC published its recommendations to Government on the establishment of a points-based system for immigration, together with the appropriate salary thresholds. After scrutinising the 397-page report and putting questions to the MAC, BFM has concluded that most furniture occupations would be eligible for work visas.
However, wood machinists (CNC excepted) and upholstery sewers are not expected to be included.
And while the BFM welcomes the MAC’s recommendations to reduce the salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600, it is concerned that many UK furniture manufacturers will struggle to meet the new proposed rate of pay for experienced migrant workers.
BFM MD Nick Garratt says: “Based on our communication with MAC, we have interpreted the implications and communicated our findings out to our members. In summary, MAC is recommending that the skill level where most furniture occupations lie should be eligible for a Tier 2 work visa.
“This would include graphic designers, upholsterers, cabinetmakers, sprayers, CAD operators, CNC machinists and programmers, and mattressmakers. The minimum annual salary for an experienced worker would have to be set at £25,600, and £17,920 for new entrants.
“However, upholstery sewers would not qualify for a visa as that occupation is classified as low-skilled. Wood machinists (CNC excepted) also fall into the ineligible lower skills category. The salary threshold does present a problem for the majority of furniture companies who need to employ migrant labour.
“According to the Skills & Salary Level Survey BFM undertook in late 2019, 74% of the sample paid their furniture workers less than £26,000 a year and some companies considerably less than this figure. MAC recognise in their report that sectors like furniture manufacturing will be affected significantly as it is one with a high number of EU migrant workers and suggests that Government may wish to look at sector-based schemes, which were mentioned during the election campaign.
“BFM is now waiting for further clarity on the situation."