Dealing with a skills shortage

Published on: 10/09/2021


As the UK economy continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions of the last 18 months, the number of job vacancies are reaching record highs.

Many businesses across a number of sectors have been able to reopen in full in the UK since the final restrictions lifted on 19 July 2021. This has created a serious increase in demand for workers, with the ONS estimating that between May and July 2021, there were approximately 958,000 vacancies that needed to be filled.

Some industries however have struggled to fill these vacancies. In particular, the hospitality and retail distribution sectors have voiced concerns about the number of gaps in their staff, with empty shelves and restaurant closures making the news in recent weeks.

This skills shortage may be the result of a number of factors, such as employees leaving industries such as hospitality during the lockdowns, or workers returning to their homes overseas during the pandemic.

Businesses facing shortages are now considering their options to address their skills gap. One potential option is to recruit those seeking new positions or a change of role when the furlough scheme comes to an end or offering a chance to retrain existing employees to fill gaps that they cannot fill from the market.

Another option employers may want to consider it recruiting workers from outside the UK to fill these gaps. This will typically be workers entering the UK on a Skilled Worker visa.

A Skilled Worker visa allows an employee to come to the UK to do an eligible job for an approved employer. To do so:

  • they will need to have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from their prospective employer,
  • they must be doing a job that is on the list of eligible occupations,
  • they must be paid the minimum salary for that role, and
  • they must be able to prove their knowledge of English.

Skilled Workers can remain in the UK for up to 5 years before their visa must be extended. It can take between three to eight weeks to get a decision on this type of visa application.

In order to recruit a worker from outside the UK, the employer must first obtain a sponsor licence. This can be a complex process, requiring the employer to submit an application form and supporting documents, as well as ensuring that they have appropriate systems in place to monitor the sponsored employees and have appointed the right people to manage the sponsorship.

Whether you are a business looking for help with a sponsorship licence application or seeking support with a Skilled Worker visa, our Immigration Team is more than happy to assist with any queries.


This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking professional and legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.