The government's proposed cap on non-European Union workers will not help UK IT staff because intra-company movement laws will still allow large firms to bring in overseas personnel, according to the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).
The organisation has called for tougher rules on intra-company transfers, noting that over 80 per cent of non-EU IT workers currently enter under these laws.
"APSCo has consistently argued that employers using intra-company transfers should be audited more rigorously to ensure that workers being brought in are not undercutting UK market rates," said APSCo chief executive Ann Swain.
"The UK Border Agency, which has responsibility for enforcement, could do much more to investigate alleged abuses of the system. If the government doesn't look at this issue, the cap will be little more than an empty gesture."
Swain also said that the new rules play into the hands of large IT firms as they can easily fill gaps in their global offices, but a complete cap on immigration would harm SMEs.
"The new rules will stop small UK-owned IT businesses from plugging skills gaps. What if an employer cannot fill an urgent niche requirement, and the cap on intra-company transfers has already been reached?" she said.
APSCo has asked the government to consider using the 'resident labour market' test for intra-company transfers to prove that employers can transfer staff from overseas only if their requirements cannot be met by the UK labour market.
A Freedom of Information request by APSCo in December found that 12,573 of the 29,240 IT workers entering the UK through intra-company transfers in 2008 arrived from India.
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