IT off skills shortage list

The Home Office included IT specialists on a list of occupations suffering from skills shortages and allowed companies to import cheap foreign workers using fast-track visas.

But according to the Professional Contractors Group, some companies, including big household names, ended contracts for UK workers in order to use the scheme to employ cheaper workers from India.

Freelancers in the UK said they were finding it increasingly difficult to secure new contracts, which suggested there was no skills shortage.

The PCG collected evidence from its members and the group’s Gurdial Rai and Philip Ross presented it to the Home Office. The victory of IT contractors comes after the PCG’s failure to overturn the hated tax measure IR35.

The PCG had claimed that IR35 seriously disadvantaged contractors, especially those in IT, because it forced them to pay significantly more tax. At the time of the High Court hearings the PCG claimed the tax rule was unfair because it taxes one-person businesses more harshly than larger organisations, effectively providing ‘state aid’ to large IT contracting companies. The PCG argued the legislation is forcing IT contractors to seek employment outside the UK, a claim vehemently denied by the Revenue.

The latest battle for the PCG was to stop what it saw as a damaging influx of IT workers from outside the UK.

After a series of discussions the government has agreed to remove all IT jobs from its skills shortage list, and decreed that all IT work permit applications must show that the job has been advertised in either a national newspaper or relevant trade journal.

‘This is excellent news,’ said Jane Akshar, PCG chairman. ‘It demonstrates how we have been able to work with the government and other members of the Skills Sector Panel to show clearly these skills were not in short supply in the UK.’

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