The Government has commissioned a review of the Shortage Occupations List (SOL) to determine whether any occupations should be removed or added to the list. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been tasked with this, and it will likely invite employers and other stakeholders to provide evidence.
The review is scheduled to be completed by March 2023. Kevin Foster MP, the Minister for Safe and Legal Migration, confirmed that any recommendations made by the MAC which are accepted by the Government will be incorporated into the Immigration Rules in Autumn 2023.
What is the Shortage Occupations List?
The SOL is a list of occupations which face a shortage of suitable labour in the UK. A job role’s appearance on the list confers benefits under the Skilled Worker visa route. For example, workers sponsored in a shortage occupation role can be paid 80% of the usual going rate whilst still qualifying for this route.
The MAC will be considering three key areas:
Currently, jobs included on the SOL must have an annual salary that is the higher of either the ‘going rate’ for the role less a 20% discount, or £20,480 subject to a minimum of £10.10 per hour. The MAC will be considering whether the 20% discount to the going rate should be removed.
Jobs currently on the SOL
The MAC will also be reviewing the jobs that are currently on the list and deciding whether or not some of them should be removed. The listed jobs are there to address labour shortages, which means they are potentially a short-term strategy. Having businesses rely on migration permanently would defeat the purpose of the SOL as the labour shortages would simply continue in those industries.
There may be other job roles that are suffering from labour shortages and should therefore be added to the list. The MAC will specify which roles it recommends adding at Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 and/or RQF levels 3-5. RQF level 6 is the equivalent of degree level whereas levels 3-5 are A-level equivalent and above. The Government has previously cautioned against recommending roles below RQF level 3.
What this means for employers
If struggling to recruit workers for certain vacancies, employers should consider collating evidence to send to the MAC demonstrating a need for certain jobs to be added to the SOL.
The Home Office recently added Care Workers to the SOL in response to increased calls and evidence provided by care homes and hospitals, thereby displaying their responsiveness to the needs of employers, despite the role being below RQF level 3. The Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit labour shortages escalated the need to fill vacancies with foreign labour. The addition of several roles to the list allows care homes (after obtaining a sponsor license) to hire such labour with less restrictions at a lower overall cost.
In the commissioning letter the Government agreed with the MAC that a more formalised approach to requests is sensible, which is why evidence by employers will be required. Employers should also provide a strategy to the MAC to address the labour shortages they have by using other methods instead of relying on migration. Employers should always look to the Department for Work and Pensions via local jobcentres first if they are struggling with recruiting.