MAC concludes review of UK shortage occupation list

Out-Law Analysis | 16 Oct 2020 | 5:30 pm | 2 min. read

The UK's independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its recommendations following a review of the shortage occupation list (SOL).

The MAC was asked by the UK home secretary to review the current composition of the SOL earlier this year. The focus of that review was to accommodate the changes to the 'skilled worker' route in the future immigration system, which will cover all occupations at RQF3 skill level and above from 1 January 2021.

What is the shortage occupation list?

The SOL is a list of those occupations where it is considered that employers face a shortage of suitably skilled labour in the UK and, therefore, it is appropriate for these shortages to be addressed with migrant labour. There is currently a UK-wide list and a separate, additional list for roles located in Scotland.

For employers, the main benefit of a role featuring on the SOL is an exemption from conducting a resident labour market test (RLMT) and reduced government application fees. As the RMLT is being abolished from 2021 under the new immigration system, the main benefit will become the 'tradeable points' which a migrant would acquire by undertaking an SOL role and the ability for the employer to sponsor someone for a visa at a salary up to 20% lower than would otherwise be required.

Louisa Cole

Senior Associate

The addition of senior care workers and nursing assistants to the list should help ease the significant burden which will be placed on healthcare services following the end of free movement.

A lower salary limit of £20,480 will apply, provided that the occupation is not subject to national pay scales or any other reduction in salary thresholds as a result of the applicant holding a relevant PhD or being a new entrant to the workplace.

What is the MAC recommending?

Among the recommendations in the MAC's report is the addition of 70 new job types, either to the UK-wide shortage occupation list or the lists specific to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This would increase the share of UK employment roles on the SOL from 9% to 14%. The additions include senior care workers, nursing assistants and veterinary nurses.

There is particularly positive news for the health sector as the recommendations include the addition of three new occupations on the UK-wide SOL: SOC 1181 health services and public health managers and directors; SOC 2213 pharmacists; and SOC 2221 physiotherapists.

The health sector will also welcome the addition of senior care workers and nursing assistants to the list. The addition of these should help ease the significant burden which will be placed on healthcare services following the end of free movement in a sector notorious for struggling to be able to satisfy salary threshold requirements due to public sector budgetary constraints.

Interestingly, data analysts and business analysts in the business and related associated professional category are also included among the MAC's recommended additions. Many businesses will benefit from the greater flexibility to salary thresholds which this addition will introduce.

Note that salary threshold reductions will not apply to those occupations, largely in the public sector, which face salary thresholds based on pay scales.

Future reviews of the shortage occupation list

The MAC also took the opportunity to consider the frequency of future reviews of the SOL, given its increased importance under the new immigration system.

It has recommended that the next SOL review should be a minor one, to be completed in autumn 2021, providing an opportunity for occupations to be added to the SOL but not to be removed without prior notice. A major SOL review should then take place in autumn 2022.

The MAC has recommended that minor reviews should then take place annually, with major reviews taking place every three years.

The recommendations in the review are merely recommendations at present, and are yet to be accepted by the UK government. However, historically, the government has followed the MAC's recommendation in relation to the SOL.