Nearly half of companies who employ non-EU workers have reported a negative impact on business as a result of the immigration cap. The problem has been made worse by an increasing skills gap, claim King’s College London and law firm Speechly Bircham. The number of organisations experiencing a shortage of key staff rose to one in three in 2010, compared to one in five in 2009.

Findings from The State of HR Survey suggested that over 40 per cent of organisations who mainly recruited skilled workers from outside the EU were extremley affected by the restriction on the number of visas, which was introduced on a temporary basis last summer and is set to become permanent this April.

The research findings, commissioned by King’s College London and law firm Speechly Bircham, showed that in organisations where there were skills shortages, increased staff turnover and sickness absence was more likely.

The survey, based on responses from 550 senior HR professionals with a combined workforce size of over two million, also warned that the number of employment tribunal cases was likely to rise though a combination of increased stress and working hours, squeezed pay and poor relationships with management.

Half of organisations surveyed reported an increase in staff working hours, while pay rises and bonuses continued to be withheld, and 40 per cent said formal grievances had arisen from employee relations with senior line managers.

Longer working hours were also found to significantly correlate with increased absence, sickness, stress-related problems and increased employee grievances, according to the report.

“This year’s survey findings send out a clear warning to employers. The combination of increased workplace conflict, longer hours and rising stress levels is a potent cocktail which could lead to a significant rise in tribunals and industrial action if not properly addressed,” said Richard Martin, head of employment at Speechly Bircham.

“Despite our last survey showing that UK employers regarded employee engagement as their number one priority, reported levels of employee engagement have fallen. Skills shortages are worsening and the rigid cap on immigration means that employers are left with few tools with which to plug the skills gap.”