New employment measures impacting games businesses come into force today

Today, a raft of new measures on immigration and skills come into force which will impact games companies across the country.

Since the referendum, it’s been clear that the ability to access EU and international talent is the number one concern for games businesses that rely on a highly skilled workforce with leading technical and creative expertise. Our latest report ‘State of Play: The UK games industry’s priorities for the EU negotiations’ highlights that 61% of respondent games businesses rely on highly skilled international talent to make innovative new products and services.

It is therefore vital for our industry that the UK remains a global hub for the brightest technical and creative talent, yet the series of new measures announced today could do much more to safeguard the skills and immigration needs of the UK’s digital economy.

Here is a breakdown of how the measures will impact games businesses, and links to new Guides on the changes created by our legal partner Sheridans:

Apprenticeship Levy

The new apprenticeship programme, including the apprenticeship levy, comes into effect today marking the first concrete step towards the Government’s ambitious plan to create 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020.   

The levy will have a significant impact on games businesses caught by the new regulations. Read our legal partner Sheridans’ blog here for full details on the key implications.

Ukie has consistently argued that in its current form the apprenticeship levy does not address the skills needs of the games and wider digital creative industries. There is a real risk that the funds will be insufficiently used by games companies and the levy could potentially undermine existing training and skills initiatives.

What’s more, ensuring that the design of the apprenticeship levy works for the games industry has gained increasing significance in a post-Brexit Britain where we are likely to face further skills shortages as a result of changes to free movement of labour laws.

With the right flexibilities in place, apprenticeships could play a vital role in tackling our industry’s growing skills challenge as well as increasing productivity, growth and social inclusion. The government must do more to understand the needs of our sector and work with industry to ensure the apprenticeship programme has a positive long-lasting impact on the growth of digital and creative skills.

Immigration Skills Charge and New Restrictions on the Tier 2 Visa

Today also marks the introduction of new restrictions to the Tier 2 high skilled migration route which many games businesses rely on to bring top technical and creative talent into the UK.

The restrictions include an increased salary threshold, changes to rules for Tier 2 Intra-Company transfers and most notably the introduction of an immigration skills charge – an additional annual fee of up to £1,000 per skilled worker.

Read about the full impact of these new restrictions in the Tier 2 Changes Need to Know Guide prepared by our legal partner Sherdians.

Since these changes were proposed, Ukie has argued that restricting the games industry’s access to the international talent pool it needs to grow and thrive jeopardises the UK’s standing as a global hub for the brightest technical and creative talent.

Responding to the Migration Advisory Committee’s Review of the Tier 2 Visa in September 2015, Ukie emphasised how the new restrictions could detrimentally affect games companies already fighting the war for talent.

The time taken for education reform to bed down and grow experienced programmers means recruitment remains global and raising the salary threshold will limit the ability of games companies to set up and expand teams in the UK.

That’s why in our latest report ‘State of Play: The UK games industry’s priorities for the EU negotiations’, which found that 87% of the games companies surveyed hired global talent as UK candidates did not have the right skills, we called on Government to seize the opportunity presented by Brexit to reform our current immigration system, including dropping the immigration skills charge.

Games businesses reported that the current immigration system is unduly complicated, and burdensome; the introduction of the new skills charge only serves to increase this burden, particularly for small games businesses.

In very competitive, innovative, global industries like games, businesses must be able to attract the diverse global talent they need to grow. The Government should seize this unparalleled opportunity to develop a new data-driven, flexible immigration system that is responsive to economic demand, to ensure that the UK remains home to top international talent.

Protecting your EU workers from Brexit

The immigration changes announced today will undoubtedly remind many of us of the anxiety and uncertainty faced by the roughly 3 million EU nationals currently living in the UK, including the many that help make up the games industry. Whilst we have consistently urged Government to clarify whether EU citizens working in the UK have the right to remain, questions over EU national’s residency rights remain unresolved for the time being.

Nevertheless, there are a number of practical measures EU nationals currently in the UK can start taking to preserve their status, as set out in this Need to Know Guide on Protecting EU Workers from Brexit prepared by our legal partner Sheridans.

For more information about Ukie’s ongoing Policy and Public Affairs work please contact Marianna