We are all very sad at Barrington Stoke because our wonderful Publishing Assistant Megan is going home to America after Christmas. We wouldn’t normally share a development of this type on our blog but have decided to do so because it’s not entirely a personal decision on Megan’s part; rather, it’s as a result of recent legislative changes at UK government level. As a US national, Megan falls into the visa category that will be subject to the £35,000 minimum salary requirement for an application for indefinite leave to remain after April 2016. Megan has therefore made the decision to start the new year afresh in the US.
Matt Cavanagh of the Institute of Public Policy Research told the Guardian, ‘Ministers accept that our economy needs skilled migrants to come and work at levels below £35,000 a year, but have decided that even if they work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules, they will be forced to go home after five years’.
To put £35,000 into context, it’s around £10,000 higher than the average wage in the UK. It’s around the top rate of the Scottish Unpromoted Teachers’ Salary Scale. It’s around £7,000 more than a Managing Editor job recently advertised by a UK publisher, and that required applicants to have at least five years’ experience in the industry.
Megan first came to us from the US on an internship programme for six months. She then returned to Scotland to complete a Masters in Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University, during which time she worked for us for the part-time hours her visa permitted, as a means of developing her skills and supporting our US list. She joined us full-time after graduation. She has worked tremendously hard and it has been a pleasure to see her develop into a most able young publisher. She is a valued colleague and also a friend.
We would be sad to see Megan go under any circumstances, but to see her effectively forced into this choice is deeply depressing. She pays taxes. She is active in the community. She has a network of friends and loved ones. She has paid hefty fees to our education system and through the nose for every visa application and renewal she has been required to make. She has complied with all the rules. She is a contributor – in a country that needs young people contributing. As journalist Iain McWhirter says, ‘Scotland needs more immigration. Its tax base is shrinking.’
Matt Cavanagh says the £35,000 threshold, ‘makes no sense in economic terms, will cause big problems for employers, and is unfair on individual migrants. It could also discourage the “brightest and best” from coming here in the first place. The majority of working migrants don’t stay permanently anyway, but they value the option, and if Britain no longer offers it, they may go elsewhere.’
We agree with Matt Cavanagh, because the legislation deprives us of one of our brightest and best young professionals. Our profession does not operate at high salary levels, and it is clear the legislation will hit it, and the creative industries in general, hard for this reason. We have no doubt that Megan will go on to be an asset to a publishing company in the US and we cannot but think it is a shortsighted policy indeed that says we should train and develop young people and, once they have become a true asset, tell them they are no longer wanted.
Barrington Stoke’s office is closed this afternoon while we give Megan the send-off she deserves.
All the best for the future, Megan. You are a loss to us and we will miss you very much. Your next employer is very lucky indeed.