The current rules on chefs

Posted on In Focus Sep 2011 - by Tandoori Editor
The current rules on chefs

As regulations get tighter and tighter, what are the current rules on bringing chefs into the UK? Maria Fernandes takes an in-depth look.

The restaurant industry enjoyed a few years of relative stability when the positions of chefs were finally recognised as being in acute short supply, and this resulted in a relaxation of the rules and the growth of the industry. That position has now been irreversibly reversed and the message that is put out loud and clear (not least through a speech by the Prime Minister) is that chefs are not welcome. The Government want scientists and artistes.
Accordingly the regulations for bringing in new staff from abroad have been considerably tightened to allow that the restaurant must be a fine dining restaurant. Restaurants, often of a high quality, serving the high streets around the UK are most likely to feel the pinch.
The Migration Advisory Committee have recently completed their investigation of the shortage occupations and have submitted their findings to the Government. The changes described below are current and do not take account of any further changes proposed which are likely to kick in around the autumn when Parliament returns. These changes may be the final nail in the coffin for the industry.
Out of country Applicants (Restricted Certificates)
Restrictions on bringing in staff from abroad initially relate to the quality of the restaurant. It must produce its food from scratch using fresh ingredients. Any restaurant that provides a take-away service, however small, or a buffet service other than an occasional service is excluded.
The job itself must be at NQF level 4 and the minimum salary offered must be £20,000. Once the minimum criteria are met the position is then allocated to the organisation that scores the highest points. At present there are 6,052 unused certificates from April they are being rolled over each month to the following month. However, the grant of certificates for this industry has almost reached a standstill.
The process is that sponsors first need to advertise the position and then, depending on the result, apply for an allocation. They are then asked for a detailed job description and organisation chart, references of the applicant, menus and number of covers. If unsuccessful there is no formal or informal appeal process, although applications can be made in the following month. 
In Country Applicants (Unrestricted Certificates)
There has, however, been a relaxation of the rules for those already in the UK under Tier 2 or on work permits. They will be able to extend their stay without being subject to the annual limit and will not need to meet the new graduate (NQF Level 4) requirements, the new salary threshold or the new English language level. This is for those who change employment or remain with the same employer.
The only pitfall to watch out for is that where there is a change of employer the position must be advertised before hand.In both these cases the minimum salary requirement is in a Code of Practice which was in existence shortly before the new changes came into force.
The lowest salary on offer in that code is £8.45. This minimum salary must also be paid when the chef is applying for settlement. It should also be remembered that those applying for settlement now have to pass the Life in the UK Test, which requires a good working knowledge of English. If they cannot pass the test they will need to apply for further extensions until they pass the test.
Students can apply to switch to Tier 2 but must have completed a course of at least one year. Restaurants employing students should be especially careful to ensure that they are only working for the number of hours allowed. This means carefully examining their passports, which will in most cases show the hours of work allowed.
The rules for students’ right to work has been tightened in several phases over the past two years and it is vitally important for employers to be aware of the hours permitted for the particular student.  It is also advisable for employers to obtain a copy of the student’s timetable if they intend to offer full-time employment during holidays. 
No cash payments
There have also been operational changes as well. Applicants can no longer be paid in cash but must be paid through their bank account. Despite the fact that these changes came into effect some months ago employers continue to pay cash.
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