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The Future of the Shortage Occupation List

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If you are a UK business with a sponsor licence to sponsor skilled worker visa holders you will understand the importance of a job being on the shortage occupation list.

In this blog, our immigration solicitors look at the future of the shortage occupation list following the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee review of the list and its recommendations.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence and business immigration advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The Migration Advisory Committee and its review of the shortage occupation list

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has finally published its review of the shortage occupation list (3 October 2023). It is now up to the government to decide whether to accept the MAC recommendations in full or in part.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers understand that businesses with sponsor licences need to stay ahead of the game and need to be aware of potential changes to immigration rules or to the shortage occupation list, especially when the MAC is suggesting significant changes.

Will the shortage occupation list be abolished?

The shortage occupation list contains the list of roles that are accepted by the government as being unmet by UK recruitment to fill the jobs and where overseas recruitment is accepted as one of the solutions to meet the demand for workers in specified roles.

The shortage occupation list is drawn up by the Migration Advisory Committee but its recommendations must be approved by the government. When a job goes onto the shortage occupation list there is no guarantee that it will always remain on there but whilst the job is on the list sponsor licence holders benefit from:

  • A reduced minimum salary threshold
  • Lower visa application fees

For care and nursery homeowners and social care providers, the shortage occupation list has significantly changed their recruitment options. That is because many healthcare jobs qualify for the health and care worker visa (part of the skilled worker visa route) by virtue of being on the shortage occupation list rather than because the healthcare job is on the list of skilled jobs eligible for a skilled worker visa.

Despite many Sponsorship Licence lawyers and sponsor licence holders believing that the shortage occupation list should be further extended the MAC report says that the MAC does not believe that the list resolves the UK recruitment crisis in specific sectors and occupations and that it should therefore be significantly reformed or abolished.

The MAC is also recommending that the shortage occupation list should have its name changed to the ‘’immigration salary discount list’’. First impressions are that this suggested new name does not easily trip off the tongue. However, business owners and HR directors are likely to be more focused on the future of the list and whether specific jobs will continue to be eligible for salary discounts by virtue of being on a list, whatever the list is eventually called.

The Migration Advisory Committee's recommendations

The MAC has recommended that:

  • The going rate discount for jobs on the shortage occupation list is abolished. That means that sponsoring employers would need to pay either the full going rate for the job or the shortage occupation list minimum salary threshold of £20,960, whichever is the higher figure. That is a massive potential wage rise for sponsoring employers reliant on the current salary concessions for jobs on the shortage occupation list
  • A smaller shortage occupation list with many roles removed from the list (see below)
  • A further review of the list in 2024 – provided the list is retained but MAC says this review is for tweaks rather than radical overhaul again

The MAC shortage occupation list job recommendations

The Migration Advisory Committee is suggesting a smaller shortage occupation list comprising the following UK-based jobs:

  1. Care workers, home carers and senior care workers
  2. Laboratory technicians – limited to if they have 3 or more years of full-time experience
  3. Bricklayers and masons
  4. Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
  5. Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified – retrofitters
  6. Pharmaceutical technicians
  7. Animal care services occupations not elsewhere classified and limited to specific jobs such as racing grooms, stud grooms or stud handlers

The first 5 jobs are already on the shortage occupation list (with some further restrictions to the job type added). Only the final 2 are add-ons.

Scotland would get 2 country-specific jobs namely managers and proprietors in forestry, fishing and related services (fishing boat masters only) and boat and shipbuilders and repairers.

The losers are obvious with such a shortened shortage occupation list ( for example, UK employers wanting to recruit engineers, biochemists or vets from overseas). In addition, there would be losers flowing from the proposed removal of the going rate discount for the limited number of jobs that make it onto the recommended shortage occupation list. However, if jobs are on the skilled worker visa list with a corresponding standard occupational classification code there is no benefit to sponsoring employers if the jobs are also put on the shortage occupation list unless the discounted going rate is retained for jobs on the shortage occupation list.

Other Migration Advisory Committee recommendations

Two MAC recommendations that should find favour with UK business owners are:

  • Expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme – individuals on this scheme do not need a sponsoring employer
  • Asylum Seekers – allowing asylum claimants whose applications have been waiting for a decision for at least 12 months to work in the UK – there is debate about the scope of the work asylum seekers would be allowed to undertake with the Migration Advisory Committee recommending that asylum seekers are not restricted to working in jobs on the shortage occupation list but either able to work in any type of employment or only restricted to jobs eligible for the skilled worker visa

How OTS Solicitors can help your business with its sponsor licence legal needs

As specialist business immigration and Sponsorship Licence lawyers we help businesses, large and small and across a range of sectors, with all their sponsor licence needs, including:

  • Applications for sponsor licences
  • Sponsor licence renewals
  • Assisting with work visa and dependant visa applications for key employees
  • Sponsor licence training
  • Advice on sponsor licence reporting and recording duties
  • Help with sponsor licence downgrading, suspension or revocation
  • Sponsor licence management services

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence and business immigration advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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