Home Office advised to keep skilled chefs on migration shortage list

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chef

The UK's booming world cuisine restaurant sector will welcome the news the Home Office is being advised to keep skilled chefs on the Shortage Occupation List
The UK's booming world cuisine restaurant sector will welcome the news the Home Office is being advised to keep skilled chefs on the Shortage Occupation List
The UK's booming specialist world cuisine restaurant sector appears to have received a reprieve as the Home Office has been advised to keep skilled chefs on the Shortage Occupation List allowing restaurateurs to continue to employ non-EU chefs.

A report passed to the Government on Friday suggests leading chefs with more than five years’ experience should still be considered in shortage as long as they are being brought into the country to work in non-takeaway or fast food restaurants.

The restaurants must produce dishes on-site as opposed to in central production kitchens. However, the minimum salary required to bring in these specialist chefs will increase slightly to £29,570 from £28,260. 

Future growth

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) had been asked by the Government to review the occupations considered to be at a shortage within the UK - employers are currently only able to employ chefs from countries outside the European Economic Community (EEC) because of their position on the list.

There had been a growing concern chefs would be removed from the list putting the future growth of restaurant brands such as Roka, Hakkasan and MW Eat in severe doubt.

In October, BigHospitality reported that a number of the country's top restaurant companies had secured a meeting with MAC where they lobbied the organisation and delivered a grave warning that world cuisine restaurants in the UK were facing the danger of a 'slow death'.

However last week MAC announced it was advising the UK Border Agency to keep the following occupations on the list: executive chefs, head chefs, sous chefs and specialist chefs.

The Government will need to review the findings but it is expected that the Home Office will back MAC and make an announcement by this summer.

Sunset clause

Limits will remain on the number of chefs an establishment can bring in however ethnic restaurant brands will be celebrating after MAC advised a number of other occupations in other industries - including healthcare - should be removed from the list, essentially halting all migration of non-EU personnel travelling to work in those occupations. 

Speaking to BigHospitality, a spokesperson for migration assistance firm Visalogic,​ which has been helping the restaurant industry lobby MAC, said the findings were a sign of how well restaurateurs had made their case.

"The ethnic section of the hospitality industry put forward good arguments as to why it would have been detrimental to remove chefs. They (MAC) have a made a good and well-thought out decision," he said.

Hakkasan Group chief executive Niall Howard recently told Restaurant magazine's Joe Lutrario that the immigration rules had already led to him aborting the rollout of two of his brands.

Other operators had argued the specialist nature of some roles in their restaurants were such that they could never be filled by home-grown talent which the Government has been keen to develop with the launch of so-called 'curry colleges'.

Although MAC has also advised the Home Office not to consider a sunset clause, which would effectively see some occupations automatically drop off the shortage list after a period of time, Visalogic warned operators to be ready to once again make the case for the inclusion of chefs on the list.

"It is always going to be temporary," he said. "MAC's recommendation is always to promote local skills and the local workforce however it is not always viable. Restaurateurs need to bear in mind it is subject to change."

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