[Skip to content]

FM World logo
Text Size: A A A


This month we find out how concerned people are about the new immigration regime's impact on FM. 
© Alamy
© Alamy

30 March 2020 |  Herpreet Kaur Grewal

The facilities management industry has expressed concern at the government’s changes to the immigration system, saying it could lead to a serious shortage of labour for sectors like cleaning. We asked how concerned you were about the effect on FM of the new immigration regime. Here are the responses from some industry leaders. See here for our Front Desk analysis on this topic.

Emma Potter

Tevin Tobun

Fishing in the UK talent pool

The proposals are going to have a significant impact across the sector, but to begin to tackle this we need to look at how we can make the industry more attractive to the UK talent pool.

A lot has been said since the announcement about how salaries and wages need to improve to help us survive, but I think the issue is deeper than that. Industries like ours have long been seen as less desirable than others for reasons beyond money. We need to take this opportunity to reset our own business behaviours to help determine how we can create a more sustainable workforce.

Tevin Tobun, CEO, GV Group

Martin Reed

Towards a higher-skill economy

My hunch is that the new scheme, due to the scale of the salary requirements, will be a challenge for our industry at entry/service level recruitment as the market now stands. As this is the primary area where motivated and skilled staff had been available through free movement over a long period our economy will take time to adjust. The opposite end to that is any drive upwards of salaries of lower earners is a positive thing for businesses and their clients as long as the market moves with them. 

However, clients will demand that increases in salary costs are paid for in efficiencies, so everyone will be under pressure to do more with fewer people, but those people will be better off once things settle down.  

Martin Reed, CEO Incentive FM Group

Dale Thompson

Upskilling is the key

A report from the Edge Foundation in April 2019 highlighted that it is common in the hospitality industry to see more than 100,000 vacancies at any one time. That undoubtedly needs to be addressed. We should be doing everything possible to fill these positions not putting barriers in the way.

There is still a great deal of uncertainty due to Brexit and the hospitality sector has already seen many overseas nationals deciding to leave the UK.

Hospitality is an amazingly vibrant and dynamic sector to be part of, but unfortunately it doesn’t provide the highest salaries. Many organisations in this line offer less than the London Living Wage of £10.75 an hour, and the new restrictions by the government on migrant workers will not aid this. 

We are lucky to have such a diverse make-up of people within Vacherin; only 30 per cent have British passports and we have so much talent and skill from all around the world. 

It is important for us all to focus on what we can do to support our workforce. Vacherin is encouraging employees to apply for settled status and we are doing all we can to keep our staff fully informed and help and offer guidance on this. 

It’s important for businesses to talk to their teams and consider offering incentives and development opportunities to retain the top talent. Offering more training and development makes people feel valued and invested. Vacherin has just signed up 23 employees on apprenticeship programmes including an English language course.

To address a potential shortage in staffing, we are also encouraging our employees to introduce friends to the business with our “Refer a friend” reward scheme, which has proved successful. Having an excellent reputation as an employer and taking care of employees is now more important than ever. 

Dale Thompson, director of HR, Vacherin

Mike Boxall

Streamline your services

The proposed immigration rules will have caused anxiety for many FM businesses providing cleaning, catering and security.

FM relies heavily on low-paid labour, much of which is from the EU. Under the proposed points system, it’s unlikely that many of these workers would qualify for a visa. Equally as troubling for the industry is that it faces losing a large proportion of the workforce.

Businesses looking to prepare have been encouraged to target the UK’s 800,000 unemployed young people, and may need to adjust budgets to pay higher wages.

Regardless of how businesses do adapt, many will streamline their FM services. A mix of short and long-term solutions can give cost savings, while also raising service efficiency and quality, e.g. reviewing waste management can highlight areas for improvement and even create a new asset stream. Businesses looking to stay ahead of the curve will start benchmarking sooner rather than later.

Mike Boxall, managing director at Sitemark

Sofie Hooper

The known unknowns 

It’s hard to guess what the impact of these proposals will be in a sector as varied as FM. First, the rules are not published, even though they are due to be applied from January 2021. The policy statement only gives an idea of what is coming. Second, the FM skills gap has been felt across the skills range needed in FM services. 

The reduction in skills (to A-level qualifications) and salary thresholds (from £30,000-£25,600) for skilled workers will make it easier to recruit engineers. Hard FM was already exploring the non-EEA skills pool. But it will be far harder to fill positions in frontline service delivery, such as cleaners, security, hospitality because of the lack of route for lower-skilled workers. The expectation is that employers will invest in automation or call on the economically inactive. The latter has been debunked and investment in tech will put more pressure on SMEs.  

Our challenge to government to address the skills gap with complementary policies across the education, industrial and migration policy areas remains.


Sofie Hooper, IWFM head of policy


Local people for local jobs


It will force companies to employ local people with a good wage to do the work. There are plenty of available people out there; if the unemployment was removed they would be forced to work in jobs like this instead of staying home and having the state pay them a living.