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Hiring activity picks up in August – REC/KPMG

09th Sep 2020

Hiring activity picks up in August – REC/KPMG

The latest REC/KPMG Jobs Report for August shows a renewed increase in hiring activity following the relaxation of public health measures and the reopening of the UK economy after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. Permanent placements rose only marginally overall, but temp billings expanded at the steepest rate since December 2018.

UK recruitment consultancies signalled the first increase in permanent staff appointments for six months in August. Though only slight, the upturn was a marked improvement on the severe drops seen in prior months when the COVID-19 outbreak led many firms to cancel or delay staff hiring.

Regional data highlighted divergent trends, with permanent staff appointments rising in the South of England and the Midlands but declining in the North of England and London.

Latest data signalled that billings received from the employment of temporary workers increased during August, thereby ending a seven-month period of decline. Furthermore, the rate of growth was the sharpest recorded since December 2018.

The overall availability of workers continued to expand at a historically sharp rate in August. Notably, the rate of growth was the second sharpest on record (after December 2008). Recruiters frequently mentioned that company lay-offs had raised candidate numbers, with both permanent and temporary worker supply rising markedly.

Recruiters indicated that increased worker availability and muted demand for staff continued to weigh on starting pay in August. However, both starting salaries and temporary wages declined at weaker rates compared with those seen in the previous four months.

Overall vacancies fell for the sixth month running in August, with the rate of decrease quickening slightly since July. Underlying data highlighted divergent trends, with permanent staff demand deteriorating sharply, while short-term vacancies stabilised. The Total Vacancies Index slipped from 43.4 in July to 42.8 in August, to signal a further drop in overall demand for staff. The rate of reduction was sharp overall but remained much weaker than those recorded throughout the second quarter at the peak of the pandemic.

Commenting on the latest survey results, James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG, said:

“It’s positive to see an uptick in hiring activity, particularly for temporary staff, which could mark a turning point with businesses appearing more willing and able to hire as more parts of the UK economy reopen.

But with total candidate availability rising at a near-record pace, strong and sustained rises are needed to move the UK jobs market back to levels seen pre-COVID – and with concerns around a possible second wave of infections, the winding down of the furlough scheme and a Brexit deal outcome, there are still many challenges ahead.

This paves the way for government to not only provide short-term support but also to offer jobseekers the means to retrain and upskill, helping the recovery in jobs and reviving the UK’s productivity growth.”


14th Aug 2020

In the first week of August, the number of job advertisements in the UK rose to the highest weekly total since lockdown began according to an analysis by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.

The analysis found that there were 1.10 million active job postings in the week starting 3 August, up from 1.04 million in the previous week. However, this remains below the 1.35 million job postings active before lockdown in the first week of March.

Last week also saw the highest number of new job postings since lockdown began, with almost 126,000 adverts posted between 3-9 August. The previous high was the first week of June, with 112,000 new postings.

REC’s data found that the growth in job adverts spanned almost the entire country. While the largest weekly increase was in Redbridge & Waltham Forest (23.7%), four of the top ten hiring hotspots were in Northern Ireland: Derry City & Strabane (11.5%), Ards & North Down (11.0%), Fermanagh & Omagh (9.2%) and Causeway Coast & Glens (8.7%). Overall, Northern Ireland saw a weekly rise in job postings of 6.3%.

According to the REC, there were only five counties/unitary authorities where the number of job postings fell compared to the previous week with the biggest falls in Swindon (-11.5%) and North Ayrshire (-15.6%).

The data also showed there was a notable rise in job adverts for gardeners (24.8%). There have also been further increases in postings for construction workers (15.8%), painters and decorators (14.1%), bricklayers (13.3%) and LGV (large good vehicle) drivers (+14.0%). Demand has also increased for childminders (12.1%) and play workers (16.9%).

The REC added that with many people falling on hard times because of the pandemic, there has also been a rise in adverts for debt collectors (20.9%).

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said, “The latest economic data tell a stark story of the scale of the lockdown recession, but now it is all about how quickly we recover. Many firms will face cash struggles in September and October, so redundancies will be with us for months to come and unemployment will rise. But a recovery is underway, as today’s tracker data shows. Construction sites have re-opened, logistics companies are dealing with high demand, and with people spending more time at home, many have been looking to spruce up their house and gardens. The increase in adverts for childminders and playworkers is interesting and perhaps linked to more people returning to offices and workplaces in the near future.”

“It’s important to remember that we are not just passengers in all of this – we have tools available that can minimise the unemployment increase that is coming,” Carberry added. “Absent a major second wave of the virus, the government needs to make sure all its actions boost the recovery rather than put the brakes on. Supporting retention and hiring by lowering employers’ National Insurance would be a good start. There should also be a greater sense of urgency on things like the private sector job search support scheme announced by the Chancellor in July. And of course we need skills reform and a Brexit deal that helps firms to trade freely with Europe.”

REC’s vacancy data compares to Broadbean Technology’s job vacancy data which showed a 14% week on week increase at the beginning of August.

Jobs market shows signs of stabilising in July – KPMG/REC

07th Aug 2020

Jobs market shows signs of stabilising in July – KPMG/REC

The latest KPMG REC Jobs Report shows that recruitment activity moved closer to stabilisation in July, with both permanent placements and temporary billings declining at much softer rates than in the prior four months. Nonetheless, reductions remained marked overall amid reports that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continued to weigh on clients’ hiring decisions.

Recruitment consultancies signalled a steeper increase in overall candidate availability at the start of the third quarter, driven largely by redundancies stemming from the pandemic. Furthermore, the supply of temporary workers rose at the fastest rate in over two decades of data collection, while the upturn in permanent labour supply was the second sharpest on record.

A combination of rising staff supply and subdued demand for workers added further downward pressure on starting pay in July. Starting salaries and temp pay both fell markedly in the latest survey period, despite rates of decline easing since June.

Overall vacancies fell for the fifth month running in July, with marked falls signalled for both permanent and temporary positions. That said, the rates of contraction were notably slower than those recorded in the prior three months.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said: “While permanent placements and temp billings still decreased last month across  most areas of the country, the pace of decline has slowed hugely as the tide turned on lockdown. With the economy opening up through June and July, we would expect an improving trend in the coming months as firms recover from the worst of the crisis. The fact that demand is now increasing for temporary blue collar and construction workers is also a good sign.

“There are far fewer vacancies in the market than before March, and more people looking for jobs. Recruiters will be key to helping people build confidence and find work – but the reality is that Government needs to help kickstart hiring. Reducing employers’ National Insurance rates would cut the cost of hiring, and a good Brexit trade deal will also support stronger business confidence and investment.”


08th Jul 2020

Downturn in recruitment activity eases in June

Commenting on the latest survey results, James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG, said:
“Despite an inevitable further drop in hiring activity for permanent and temporary staff, it is encouraging to see they both fell at softer rates than seen in April and May.
“However, the air of uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic will linger – and rebuilding confidence in the UK jobs market will take time.
“All eyes will be on the Chancellor’s fiscal statement today, with job seekers hoping to see a focus on skills and retraining. While UK business will welcome further support packages so they can start to ramp up as lockdown eases, and recovery gets underway.”

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:
“While there are signs that the worst declines are behind us, today’s figures show that it will be a while yet before we see job placements growing month on month. That’s no surprise, as businesses are focusing on bringing furloughed staff back to work, or making redundancies where they cannot be avoided. Recruiters will be key to helping those who lose their roles find new work – there are always vacancies out there for jobseekers, though they are at a lower level than normal right now.
“This is now a jobs crisis. Rishi Sunak should use today’s Summer Statement to boost job creation, with a cut in National Insurance designed to retain jobs and boost hiring. Action on skills will also be vital to getting people into growing sectors – including a more flexible approach to levy-funded training.”


  • Softer, but still steep, falls in permanent placements and temp billings
  • Quickest rise in staff supply since start of 2009
  • Starting pay continues to fall as vacancies decline further

Softer decline in permanent placements
UK recruitment consultancies signalled a fourth successive monthly drop in the number of people placed into permanent jobs in June. The rate of decline eased notably from the records seen in April and May, but remained sharp overall. According to survey respondents, the coronavirus pandemic continued to weigh heavily on recruitment activity at the end of the second quarter, with clients implementing recruitment freezes or cancelling hires until the outlook brightened. In cases where placements had risen, recruiters linked this to an easing of lockdown measures, but many also stated that placements had risen only modestly.
On a regional basis, permanent staff appointments fell markedly across each of the four monitored English regions. The steepest reduction was seen in London, while the softest was in the Midlands.

Temp billings fall further, but downturn eases since May
Adjusted for seasonal factors, the Temporary Billings Index signalled a decline in temp billings in June, as has been the case in each of the past four months. The rate of contraction eased further from April’s record pace but remained severe overall. When explaining the drop in temp billings, panel members frequently mentioned that the COVID-19 outbreak had sharply reduced demand for short term workers. Panellists that noted higher temp billings generally linked this to the slow reopening of the economy and some clients preferring to hire contract staff as opposed to permanent
The steepest decline in temp billings was seen in London, while the Midlands saw the slowest reduction. Nonetheless, rates of decrease remained sharp across all four monitored English regions.


02nd Jul 2020

Off-Payroll reforms to the private sector are set to go ahead after an amendment to the Finance Bill was passed through the House of Commons with no changes yesterday.

The Off-Payroll tax reforms, also known as IR35, were initially set to be rolled out to the private sector in April this year, but were delayed until April 2021 due to Covid-19. MP David Davis had called and campaigned for changes to the IR35 reform in the private sector to be delayed until 2023/2024.

The Finance Bill had passed through the Report Stage yesterdayThe Report Stage represented the last realistic opportunity for MPs to prevent a 2021 implementation of the rules in their current format. The Bill is now heading towards its Third Reading and then through the Lords, a process which is largely ceremonial.

The proposal for a further two-year delay of IR35 fell short of a majority vote in the House of Commons, losing by 317 votes to 254.

While the IR35 rules are already in place in the public sector, the legislation for extending them into the private sector will take effect from 6 April 2021. The legislation means businesses will be responsible for determining whether the contractors they hire are liable to pay income tax and national insurance contributions, and if so, for paying those sums.

The reforms are aimed at stopping tax avoidance by disguising employment through so-called personal service companies, which has been used by many independent contractors and was estimated to cost the exchequer £1.3 billion a year by 2023-24, according to HM Revenue and Customs figures published in 2018. Nevertheless, the reforms have been characterised as flawed and the subject of long-running opposition.

Dave Chaplin, Director of The Stop The Off-Payroll Tax Campaign and CEO of ContractorCalculator said, “It is very disappointing that after four years of campaigning we have not achieved the primary aim of stopping this legislation. We, and our 4,000 campaigners, did everything we could, and the Lords Report, from their inquiry into the so-called reforms, accurately detailed the damaging effect these changes will have on the UK’s flexible workforce. We are delighted that MPs tabled amendments to the Finance Bill, to prevent the damage, but sadly our MPs chose not to back them in sufficient numbers.”

“Moving forward, the market now needs to prepare and, with careful planning, firms have nothing to fear and can hire freelancers compliantly,” Chaplin said. “We have already had a dress rehearsal, and many firms and contractors saw what would happen if they did not prepare properly. We now need to work together to avoid a cliff edge scenario.

“Over the next year we will be seeing more clarity from the courts, as binding authorities are released – and these are likely to favour the self-employed and provide a legal bedrock upon which firms can compliantly hire contractors, without fear of later repercussions,” Chaplin said. “Provided firms work with specialists in this field, they should have nothing to fear.”

Seb Maley, CEO of IR35 specialist Qdos, said, “IR35 reform in the private sector has effectively now been signed off and will arrive in April 2021. Despite concerns raised by a number of MPs, who rightly exposed the flaws of this legislation and made it clear they do not believe changes are necessary, it seems there’s no turning back now.”

“The reform is short-sighted and if mismanaged poses a risk not just to contractors but to hiring organisations and recruiters. It’s therefore up to private sector firms to prepare for the changes, which can be managed with the right approach,” Maley said. “For companies to compliantly engage genuine contractors beyond April 2021, they must avoid risk-averse policy decisions and instead prioritise fair and considered IR35 status assessments. Whilst our work alone shows that thousands of businesses will be ready for the changes, many other companies – from banks to oil firms and pharmaceutical giants – should rethink how they plan to manage this reform.”

John Bell, Founder and senior partner at insolvency practitioner Clarke Bell, said, “The news that Off-Payroll is going ahead in 2021 is very disappointing and contractors and the firms that hire them will be bracing themselves for a challenging time ahead.  The pending legislation is already having a huge impact on the lives and livelihoods of contractors and we have a seen a surge in the number of enquiries from contractors seeking to close down their limited companies as a direct result of the IR35 changes.  Covid-19, Brexit and Off-Payroll combined means that the UK economy is set to suffer immeasurably in the years to come.”


27th Apr 2020

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Finance Bill Sub-Committee published its report on Off-payroll working rules, also known as IR35. The Committee concluded that the framework of the IR35 rules are flawed.

On 17 March 2020, in response to the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government announced that it was postponing the introduction of reforms to off-payroll working by 12 months. These reforms would have made large- and medium-sized organisations in the private and third sectors responsible for determining the employment status of contractors for tax purposes and for ensuring that, where relevant, employment taxes were paid.

In February, the Committee announced that it would investigate the IR35 rules and issued a call for written evidence as part of the inquiry.

The report, ‘Off-payroll working: treating people fairly’, showed that many witnesses told the Committee that the rules have made them “zero-rights employees” with none of the rights of being an employee, or the tax advantages of being self-employed.

The Committee therefore calls on the government to keep its promise on implementing the recommendations of the Taylor Review: that the taxation of labour should be made more consistent across different forms of employment, and that there should be a fair balance between tax, rights and risk.

During the passage of the Finance Bill the Government intends to legislate to carry out external research on the impact of the reforms six months after they come into effect. The Committee consider this is too soon to give a full and accurate picture and calls on the Government to carry out this research 18 months after the rules have been in operation.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Chair of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Finance Bill Sub-Committee, said, “The Committee welcomed the Government’s decision to defer these off-payroll working rules in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, our inquiry found these rules to be riddled with problems, unfairnesses, and unintended consequences. The potential impact of the rules on the wider labour market, particularly the gig economy, has been overlooked by the government. It must devote time to analysing all of this. A wholesale reform of IR35 is required.”

“We call on the Government to announce in six months’ time whether it will go ahead with reintroducing these proposals,” Forysth continued. “Contractors already concerned by these uncertain times now have the added worries of paying more employment taxes and having their fees cut by clients making additional National Insurance Contributions. Also concerning is the number of companies getting rid of contractors in anticipation of the implementation of these new rules.”

Dave Chaplin, Director of The Stop The Off-Payroll Tax Campaign and CEO of ContractorCalculator said: “I applaud the Lords findings as they have clearly seen the Off-Payroll Tax for what it is – ill-thought through, ideologically led, unevidenced, cruel, misguided and ultimately un-fit for purpose. A holistic approach now needs to be taken to treating the self-employed fairly in the tax system.”

Seb Maley, CEO of IR35 specialist Qdos, said, “The Lords have made the right call, urging the government to reassess things further down the line when contractors, businesses and the UK economy can see a way through this crisis.”

UK government puts IR35 tax reforms on hold for a year in wake of coronavirus crisis

18th Mar 2020

UK government puts IR35 tax reforms on hold for a year in wake of coronavirus crisis

‘This is a deferral, not a cancellation’ official insists

Heads up, IT contractors: the implementation of Britain’s IR35 controversial tax reforms have been delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was announced among a £330bn financial package for the UK economy that includes a business rate holiday, emergency loans for companies, and financial assistance to airlines.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday evening, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay said: “The government is postponing the reforms to the off-payroll working rules, IR35, from 6 April 2020 to 6 April 2021.”

He said the suspension is in “response to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 to help businesses and individuals,” but insisted it will still go ahead as planned the following year.

“This is a deferral, not a cancellation, and the government remains committed to reintroducing this policy to ensure people working like employees but through their own limited company, pay broadly the same tax as those employed directly,” he added.

Many corporations decided to institute a blanket ban of personal service companies (PSCs) rather than risk being financially liable for a tax bill should their contractors be deemed in scope of IR35. That list includes big banks such as Barclays, Lloyds, RBSDeutsche Bank, and HSBC, as well as pharma giant GSK and defence titan BAE Systems.

A much-anticipated government review, initiated earlier this year, offered contractors a number of concessions, but nonetheless allowed officials to forge ahead with the planned changes. The chancellor’s omission of any mention of the reforms from his budget speech last week had done little to quell contractors’ concerns. The results of a separate review by the House of Lords were expected over the next few weeks. Now it matters not, for the time being at least.

James Poyser, CEO of inniAccounts and founder of the campaign group, welcomed the pause as it “means that contractors can now switch gears and put all of their energy into the wider challenges we’re all going to face.

“We’re going to have to keep a watching brief on the market in the coming months. Whilst the wider economy is due to enter a turbulent period, it’s clear by the scale of the £330bn financial measures made available by the Treasury today that the government wishes to keep the economic engine running as much as they can. We hope these two factors combined have an impact on the contracting market.”

Over at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), director of policy Andy Chamberlain said the British government’s decision on IR35 was “sensible.”

“These changes have already undermined the incomes of many self-employed businesses across the UK. However, they would have done even more serious damage if they had gone ahead as planned. It is right and responsible to delay the changes to IR35 for at least a year during the Coronavirus crisis, to reduce the strain and income loss for self-employed businesses,” he added. ®


Jobs data shows dip in contract placements as businesses prepare for IR35

16th Mar 2020

The latest monthly Recruitment Trends Snapshot report from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) in conjunction with growth analytics platform cube19, has seen the impact of the roll out of IR35 changes to the private sector. The Snapshot has revealed contract placements dropping a sizeable 10.1 per cent month-on-month, as employers shy away from contingent workers.

With certain banks such as HSBC scrapping contingent workers altogether – the drop is perhaps not unexpected. Permanent placements have fared well as a result, with a 0.9 per cent increase month-on-month and 10.2 per cent rise from last year’s numbers.

The data also indicated a levelling out of recruitment demand in February after a huge seasonal uptick at the beginning of the year. Across permanent and contract jobs, openings fell 8.6 per cent and 7.4 per cent respectively between January and February 2020. However, permanent roles are up 9.3 per cent year-on-year, and contract opportunities have increased 7.7 per cent.

This may, in spite of coronavirus-related economic uncertainty, indicate greater stability for 2020. Between January and February 2019, perm vacancies dropped a notable 17.1 per cent, significantly more than the latest figures.

Along with growth in permanent placements, the data shows a huge uptick in recruitment sales revenue from permanent placements year-on-year, which increased 24.5 per cent – another possible indication of the impact of IR35, with businesses reducing their reliance on contractors.

“We always expect to see a dip in placements and vacancies across the board between January and February as activity levels out following seasonal hiring peaks,” said Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo. “What’s incredibly encouraging is the year-on-year increases we’re seeing, which certainly indicate that economic positivity remains for now.

“The private sector roll out of IR35 has clearly already had an impact on contract placements, however, we hope that the government’s decision to take a softer approach to off-payroll rules will encourage more businesses to continue to tap into the valuable contingent workforce,” she added.

Jo McGuire, global sales director at cube19 said: “Year over year growth is very positive on the perm side and what’s especially encouraging is the growth in permanent fees. Salaries remain neutral whilst revenue increases. This signifies that end clients recognise the value that staffing providers bring in securing top talent. IR35 is showing an impact in contract revenue but the YoY increase in contract jobs combined with the government’s softer approach to off-payroll rules will hopefully see this bounce back soon.”

KPMG and REC report strong rise in permanent placements in February 2020

06th Mar 2020

The latest KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs survey signalled a stronger rise in permanent placements during February, but temp billings continued to fall largely due to upcoming IR35 legislation changes. Nonetheless, total demand for staff expanded at the quickest rate for over a year, which was often linked to a sustained improvement in market confidence since last year’s general election. At the same time, the overall supply of candidates fell at the weakest rate since June 2013, with some recruiters mentioning that people were more willing to seek out new roles.

Starting pay for permanent staff rose at a quicker pace amid greater competition for workers. However, temp wage inflation softened to a 40-month low.

The report is compiled by IHS Markit from responses to questionnaires sent to a panel of around 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies.

The number of people placed into permanent job roles rose again during February, and at the quickest rate for 14 months. Recruiters linked the upturn to a sustained improvement in market confidence following last year’s general election. At the same time, there was a slight fall in temp billings for the second month running, which was often blamed on the upcoming private sector IR35 rollout.

February data signalled a sharp and accelerated rise in demand for staff, with the rate of vacancy growth the quickest for just over one year. The stronger increase was supported by firmer demand for both permanent and short-term staff, with the former noting the quicker rate of expansion. The overall drop in candidate supply was the weakest recorded since June 2013 in February. Recruiters commented that improved confidence among workers and upcoming changes to IR35 legislation had both contributed to the slower decline in candidate numbers.

Greater demand for workers and a lack of suitably skilled candidates led to a further rise in permanent starting salaries. Furthermore, the rate of inflation was the sharpest recorded since June 2019. Meanwhile, average hourly rates of pay for temp workers rose at a slower, but still solid, pace.

“The upturn in the UK jobs market remains steady, evidenced by a further rise in the number of people placed into permanent job roles and at the quickest rate in 14 months,” said James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG. “However, looking ahead, the current big unknown is the impact and influence the coronavirus may have on market confidence, let alone the lingering uncertainty around the actual Brexit deal.

“Businesses will be hoping that next week’s Budget provides some relief and investment to help get the UK back on the path to growth,” he said.

Neil Carberry, Recruitment & Employment Confederation chief executive, added: “It’s great to see how the state of the jobs market has improved in the past few months. Businesses are feeling positive, placement numbers are up, and the number of vacancies is now rising at the quickest pace for over a year. It shows just how important stability can be. With a little confidence about where the economy is heading, employers can make clear plans for hiring and put them into practice. Politicians must be careful to maintain that stability – whether that’s in negotiations with the EU, or making sure that the tax and skills policies in next week’s Budget work for business. This is even more important given the impact that coronavirus may have on the economy in the spring.

“The stark outlier in this data is the much slower performance of the temporary market,” Carberry added. “With less than a month to go until the IR35 changes kick in, we’re hearing about more and more companies putting a blanket ban on hiring contractors – and we now see this influencing the availability of flexible workers too. The government urgently needs to stop and think about how to make these changes more effective. They should start by delaying implementation in order to properly regulate umbrella companies.”

Employer confidence rising

02nd Mar 2020

New data from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) shows that businesses have become more confident in their ability to hire new staff.

The REC’s latest JobsOutlook survey shows that employers’ confidence in making hiring and investment decisions has increased by ten percentage points from the previous rolling quarter. It has returned to positive territory for the first time since October 2019 and sits at a net figure of +7.

Demand for permanent staff also remains high, both in the short and medium term, at net: +21 and net: +26 respectively. Businesses are looking to expand their workforce after months of uncertainty and delay.

However, half (49 per cent) of employers of permanent staff are already worried about finding enough candidates to fill their permanent vacancies. These worries are especially pronounced in sectors like health and social care and construction – industries where the government’s new immigration policy will have serious negative consequences for allowing labour into those sectors.

“Businesses across the country have grown more confident since the election,” said Tom Hadley, director of policy and campaigns at the REC.

“With more certainty about what lies ahead in the short term, many have taken the opportunity to start hiring again. Now that demand for staff is on the rise and the majority of employers have little or no spare capacity in their workforce, staff availability is the major challenge.

“As a result, last week’s immigration policy announcement has worried many employers,” Hadley added. “Sectors like healthcare, construction and logistics currently rely on workers from overseas, and are already facing labour shortages. Although the government might refer to these roles as ‘low-skilled’, they are highly important – not just for employers but also for patients, consumers and existing staff who are already overworked. We need a temporary work visa that allows businesses to hire the people they need at all skill levels and pay grades.”