IT contractors working through umbrella companies could be adversely affected by the use of inter-company transfers (ICTs) after the government’s annual immigration cap this month, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation warns.
Designed to ensure that highly skilled non-EU workers can work temporarily in the UK, ICT exemptions might also be used to bring in foreign IT professionals at lower rates of pay than their UK equivalents unless strict monitoring is practised, the REC maintains. UK contractors supplying the IT skills market are likely to agree.
ICT rules stipulate that all eligible non-EU workers must be skilled enough to attract annual salaries of no less than £40,000 (and leave within five years). However, the REC reports that some companies are already bending the rules, paying lower salaries by including accommodation allowances as part of the salary package. They are also including the payment of PAYE contributions as a job-related benefit. Both artificially inflate advertised salaries to falsely comply with ICT qualifications.
REC spokesman Jeff Brooks supported the ICT exemption system as a sensible measure that introduced intelligent flexibility to the new immigration rules. Left unmonitored, however, it opens the door to unscrupulous employers to abuse it, he said, adding that there should be strict enforcement of the minimum salary requirement to ensure they do not succeed in falsifying their salaries.
IT contracting has taken off in the UK in a big way and fairness demands that homegrown professionals are able to compete for jobs on a level playing field. When you consider that two thirds of the people entering the UK under the older ICT visa scheme were IT professionals, the need to monitor that fairness takes on an added urgency.