Published on: 12 October 2023
Earlier this year we alerted members to the fact the Migration and Advisory Committee (MAC) was calling for evidence to inform its review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). We made clear at that time it was highly unlikely that the MAC would consider occupations below Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 3 and, in terms of adding occupations to the List, industry would need to provide strong evidence as to why an occupation shortage cannot be met through the current domestic labour route or via the Skilled Worker (SW) visa entry route.
The Committee has now published its review which can be viewed here. It recommends the Government adds a further ten occupations to the List, including ‘boat and ship builders and repairers’(SOC 5326) at RQF Levels 3 – 5 but the later would only be applicable to Scotland. The Committee also recommends removing some occupations from the List, including dancers and artists, as well as carpenters and joiners (SOC 5315) which were only added in July this year. The Government, which has previously accepted the Committee’s recommendations in full, is expected to respond in January 2024.
This latest review of the SOL was conducted on the basis that employers should no longer be allowed to pay wages below the UK going rate. This means the majority of higher-skilled occupations previously on the SOL were not included and the MAC took the view that if employers are willing to match UK pay rates, then they can use the Skilled Worker visa route instead.
The MAC also recommends broader reforms to the SOL and has suggested that in future it might be better if it were commissioned to examine individual occupations or sectors where labour market issues are particularly acute. If the Government decides to retain the SOL as it currently is, the MAC will undertake its next minor review of the SOL in Spring 2024, which will include an eight-week Call for Evidence.
By way of background, when sponsoring a migrant worker on the SW route, employers must pay the higher of either the general salary threshold for the route (which as of April 2023 sits at £26,200 per annum), or the going rate for the occupation in question. Whereas occupations on the SOL are given some dispensations to make it easier for employers to access migrant labour. Currently employers can pay a discounted going rate (80% of the full rate) or the SOL general threshold of £20,960 (whichever is higher) when recruiting for an occupation on the SOL. However, the MAC has now recommended that the SOL going rate discount be removed and that all occupations on a national pay scale, alongside those where the going rate exceeds the general threshold, be made ineligible for the SOL.
If you have thoughts on how the SOL should be reformed, or wider concerns about the immigration system, please email [email protected].