Think tank suggests 'anti-social hours visas' for post-Brexit immigration system

EU migrants who are prepared to work unsociable hours should get priority over other low-skilled workers in a post-Brexit immigration system, according to a new report.

There would be a "bias" towards those seeking to take up roles with evening, night and weekend shifts under the proposals set out in a paper from think tank Policy Exchange.

This could apply to those working in sectors such as security, health, social care and manufacturing.

The report suggests a regime where EU nationals would require work permits to come to the UK.

There would be a "presumption" that the permits would run for five years for skilled professionals and two years for unskilled workers.

The blueprint notes that one option that has been floated is for a special "anti-social hours visa".

Proportion of UK workforce who are EU nationals
(PA Graphics)

It says migrants from central and eastern Europe are "often here mainly to earn money and many do not have family responsibilities, unlike most British workers (whose in-work benefits may also decline sharply if they work too many hours)".

The report adds: "Why not make a virtue of these different priorities and give preference in work permits to those prepared to work anti-social hours for all or some of their period working in the UK?"

Such permits should not be employer-specific, according to the paper by David Goodhart, Policy Exchange's head of demography, immigration and integration.

It also argues that there should be an expansion of temporary work schemes in agriculture and for young people from the EU and calls for biometric ID cards to be issued to all EU nationals staying more than six months.

Under a special "light touch" work permit scheme for EU professionals, the Home Office should guarantee to approve such permits in less than a month, the report adds.

Mr Goodhart said: "Whilst we welcome an end to freedom of movement, a good post-Brexit immigration deal should maintain a lot of continuity in the movement of people, especially for students and professionals, and we can open up several new temporary work routes.

"There's no reason for arrangements to change around tourists and students from the EU, but we do need to see a general reduction in the number of low-skilled workers.

"The Government, in partnership with industry and the Migration Advisory Committee, needs to set out how they will gradually reduce low-skilled immigration from the EU, whilst maintaining a route for workers coming to do jobs with antisocial hours."

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