A story in the Guernsey Press highlighting some of the visa and licence issues being faced by local companies in gaining and retaining staff prompted a meeting with CGi chairman Dave Newman and representatives from Home Affairs, Population Management, Immigration and Policy & Resources.
This, Mr Newman said, gave the CGi an insight for the first time into the amount of work that was going on behind the scenes to help alleviate some of the staffing issues companies face.
‘It means that when our members come to us with concerns, we actually have something to tell them about what is being worked on, rather than just feeling frustrated that we did not know what was going on.’
One of the main issues is with discretionary residential permits, also known as 9/3s, whereby employers can bring someone over to the island to work for nine months and they then leave for three months before applying for another permit to come back.
Under the current exemption, people on these permits do not have to leave the island for three months, but Home Affairs will be reviewing that again in September.
With Brexit and Covid, employers were concerned that after the nine months, a significant number of their workforce would have to leave and it was a real challenge to get them back.
‘Not only does it become very expensive and time-consuming to fill out all the paperwork, there was a reluctance for the international workforce to self-isolate,’ Mr Newman said.
The 9/3 permit exemption has been extended for three months to the end of September, allowing time for a review of that process and further discussions about how to move forward so businesses are supported.
While this was good news in the eyes of the CGi, there were still problems with the inflexibility of the laws and the bureaucracy
and red tape surrounding applications.
‘Just to get a foreign national over on a short-term licence costs around £1,000 before they even start. They might have to quarantine in England and Guernsey on arrival, which costs money, and then there’s no absolute guarantee that they’ll be any good,’ Mr Newman said.
‘In the short term, we hope Population Management will continue to work with employers to help navigate their way around these issues.
‘Our members say that the department is very helpful when they’re contacted, but it’s the same issues being brought up now as they were in 2017 when the law was introduced – the inflexibility of them.’
Brexit and Covid could never have been predicted, and while CGi members tended to like the 9/3 licences, they hoped that the laws can be re-evaluated in the current environment.
‘Lots of people’s frustration is not just with Population Management, but with the situation itself,’ he said.
‘One of the things I was really pleased about was the morning that the Guernsey Press ran the article highlighting the issues. I was contacted straight away about a meeting with the relevant parties – the quick reactions shows they do want to help.
‘After all, we’re not pulling in different directions, we all want a strong workforce to help contribute to a booming economy.’