Suggestions made to end the shortage occupation list

Oct 12, 2023

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) carried out a full review of the current shortage occupation list.

What has the Migration Advisory Committee said?

The committee is not convinced that the current shortage occupation list provides the answer to the UK’s labour shortages and has recommended that the shortage occupation (with a few exceptions) is abolished.

The basis of this recommendation is that employers are using the route to pay migrants workers a discounted salary and that there are no other benefits to being on the list. This is particularly true following the post-Brexit reforms of the Skilled Worker route.

What are the current immigration rules?

Under the current Immigration rules, employers can pay a migrant 80% of the ‘going rate’ or a minimum of £20,960, whichever is higher. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) have argued that there is no valid reason for employers to pay such a discounted salary for shortage roles and believes that the current Skilled Worker route offers employers sufficient access to overseas workers in order to meet their business needs.

Is there an argument for regional differences?

One argument which was also put forward to MAC is that the going rate for roles is not the same in different regions. This appears to have been addressed slightly with the proposal of two roles on the list for Scotland only.

Should immigration routes be sector based?

Furthermore, the committee also suggested that in future, they may to look into sectors where there are labour market concerns rather than using a list of shortage occupations. Preferential access to the skilled worker route or ideas for other immigration routes are possible solutions put forward.

MAC received responses for 145 eligible occupations but have recommended that only eight roles remain in the UK, with an additional two roles for Scotland only.

The proposed occupation list is as follows:

  • Managers and proprietors in forestry, fishing and related services (SOC code 1213, Scotland only, only “fishing boat masters”)
  • Laboratory technicians (SOC code 3111, UK wide, must have three or more years’ full-time experience)
  • Pharmaceutical technicians (SOC code 3217, UK wide)
  • Boat and ship builders and repairers (SOC code 5236, Scotland only)
  • Bricklayers and masons (SOC code 5312, UK wide)
  • Roofers, roof tilers and slaters (SOC code 5313, UK wide)
  • Construction and building trades n.e.c. (SOC code 5319, UK wide, only “retrofitters”)
  • Animal care services occupations n.e.c. (SOC code 6139, UK wide, only “racing grooms”, “stallion handlers”, “stud grooms”, “stud hands”, “stud handlers” and “work riders”
  • Care workers and home carers (SOC code 6145, UK wide, private households or individuals (other than sole traders sponsoring someone to work for their business) cannot sponsor skilled worker applicants)
  • Senior care workers (SOC code 6146, UK wide)

What other recommendations has the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) made?

  • Asylum seekers who are granted permission to work are able to work in any role and not just shortage occupation roles.
  • The Creative Worker route is updated, removing references to the shortage occupation list, allowing sponsors to sponsor migrants without carrying out the labour market test, and introducing a minimum salary threshold
  • If the shortage occupation list is not abolished, its name is change to the immigration salary discount list.
  • If the Government do not abolish the list but oppose the idea of employers paying below the general threshold, they carry out reforms to address this issue

It remains unclear how the Government will respond and which, if any, of the recommendations will be implemented. If the shortage occupation list is to remain in its current format, the committee have recommended that they carry out a minor review early next year.

If you would like to know more, please contact us to speak to a member of our Immigration Team.

This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.
Sherry Fitzgerald

Sherry Fitzgerald

Partner, Head of Immigration

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