Hospitality professionals call on Government to rethink proposed immigration laws

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurant and Hospitality figures including Karan Gokani, chef Asma Khan and Selin Kiazim call on Government to rethink proposed immigration laws

Related tags Government Immigration Restaurant Chefs

Industry figures including Hoppers director Karan Gokani, chef Asma Khan, and Oklava founders Selin Kiazim and Laura Christie have spoken out against the Government designating hospitality workers as ‘low skilled’.

Last week, the Government revealed its plans to end ‘low-skilled’ migration from the EU​ once the UK leaves the bloc at the end of the year.

It urged employers to 'move away' from relying on 'cheap labour' from Europe, and instead invest in retaining staff and developing automation technology.

The proposals would effectively make it impossible for hospitality businesses to secure EU migrants for entry-level waiting and cooking roles, as well as kitchen porters and baristas.

It provoked fierce condemnation from across the industry, with trade body UKHospitality calling the proposed changes “disastrous” for the sector.

“Speaking English and having a university degree shouldn't be a prerequisites for being a chef or working on a restaurant floor,” says Hoppers director and co-founder Karan Gokani to BigHospitality.

“I've had countless people we have hired and put through language school at Hoppers, while at the same time training them up from kitchen helper to senior chef de partie. 

“My head chefs often don't speak fluent English, but have run some of the most successful, vibrant and exciting kitchens in the city.”

Many have taken to social media to speak out against the Government’s designation of hospitality work as being ‘low skilled’, including Darjeeling Express founder Asma Khan.

Khan wrote: “Shame on the UK Gov who categorise people working in hospitality as ‘low skilled’ and not eligible for post-Brexit visas. I want the PM to come and serve tables in my restaurant for one day - then we can discuss what level of skills are needed in hospitality.”

David Toscano, founder and owner of Italian small plates restaurant brand Cin Cin, which has two sites in Brighton and Hove, says it’s time to stop putting down hospitality work as ‘low-skilled’.

“It takes committed, hard-working, honest people who love to give of themselves to make sure others enjoy their meal. That takes real skill, as does baking bread, shaping pasta, choosing wine, trimming meat, and setting a pannacotta. We do all these things because we love hospitality as a calling and a career; we are not just filling time.  

“All we ask from the Government is respect for what we do and some support to help us teach others. These latest proposals are a step backwards because it will discourage good people from joining our sector.”

In a bid to revoke the proposed new immigration laws, Oklava founders Selin Kiazim and Laura Christie have set up a petition​.

In a message written directly to Home Secretary Priti Patel, and published on the Oklava Instagram​ page, Kiazim and Christie said: "Dear Priti Patel, we are your 'low-skilled' workers. We bake your bread, we cook your dinner, we serve your wine. We are from the UK, Europe and beyond. We have chosen this as our career, and we are worth more than just a random number of points. We love this industry, and fear your new plans will be the end of hospitality as we know it.”

As things stand, the new immigration plans are due to take effect from midnight on 1 January 2021.

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