Labour weighs up British jobs for Britons rule

Sir Keir Starmer, with Angela Rayner, chairs a meeting of the shadow cabinet
Sir Keir Starmer, with Angela Rayner, chairs a meeting of the shadow cabinet - LABOUR PARTY

Labour is considering introducing rules to prioritise British jobs for British workers as part of its efforts to reduce net migration if it wins the general election on July 4.

Party sources have told The Telegraph that it will “keep under review” the introduction of a requirement for companies to actively seek to recruit workers in the UK before being allowed to bring in foreign staff for skilled work.

The rules would require companies to advertise jobs to UK workers for 28 days before they can go overseas to fill the posts. If they fail to demonstrate that they have tried to recruit in the UK, they can be barred from being able to hire workers from abroad.

The requirement to try to recruit British workers was in force until 2019 when Boris Johnson scrapped the regulations as part of a shake-up of the points system for skilled workers.

The then prime minister’s changes – which also included scrapping caps on skilled workers – have been widely blamed for contributing to a surge in migrant workers which helped push net migration to a record high of 745,000 in 2022.

Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister, has made clear that he favours a rethink of the Johnson government’s decision to ditch what is known as the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).

“We want to review the decision around scrapping the resident labour market test. I personally have major question marks about whether that was the right thing to do,” he told a panel organised by the Right-of-centre Policy Exchange think tank last year.

“I cannot write our manifesto here. We certainly want to review that and look at that very hard.”

A review was not included in the Labour manifesto although Sir Keir Starmer has set out proposed new laws to force companies to reduce their reliance on foreign workers by boosting training and recruitment of British workers.

Asked if they would review the test, a Labour party source said they would “keep the case for an RLMT under review”.

Asked by The Telegraph about whether a Labour government would reintroduce the test, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said she was prioritising reversing the reliance on foreign workers in shortage occupations, which were previously excluded from the requirement to seek a UK worker first.

Under the new laws, companies could be barred from recruiting abroad if they breach employment laws such as failing to pay their staff the minimum wage and if they fail to demonstrate that they are training up British workers for shortage jobs.

“Employers who want to recruit from abroad will need to abide by those workforce and training strategies,” Ms Cooper told The Telegraph. “What we want is for companies to be training and tackling recruitment issues here in the UK and that’s not happening at the moment.”

It could help reduce exploitation of migrants

The resident labour market test was ditched in 2019 because the Government’s migration advisory committee said the bureaucratic costs of running it outweighed the economic benefits.

However, it then covered a narrower range of largely graduate jobs with experts now suggesting it could benefit the labour market if reintroduced.

Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, said: “With the extension of the skilled worker system to care workers there is more of a case that a labour market test would help to prevent large-scale recruitment into vacancies that people already living in the UK don’t know about.

“There’s actually an argument that bringing back the LMT for care could help reduce exploitation of migrant workers with care visas, as they would have better visibility of where the vacancies are if they want to switch away from exploitative employers.”

Labour has pledged to bring down net migration but has refused to put a number on it. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, has forecast a halving in net migration and pledged to bring in a cap that would reduce the number allowed into the country every year in the next Parliament.