In May 2019, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended a significant expansion to the roles listed on the Shortage Occupation List – the official list of occupations identified as not having enough resident workers to fill vacancies.
The UK Government implemented this recommendation – and now 9% of all potential UK jobs are on the list, up significantly on the previous figure of 1%.
New occupations added to the list include veterinarians and architects. Also, after successful lobbying by the IT sector, the number of roles for this sector has been substantially expanded to include programmers and software development professionals, IT business analysts, architects and systems designers.
What are the benefits of a role being on the list?
1. Firstly, roles on the list do not have to be advertised before appointment, thus avoiding the extremely prescriptive Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). This will be viewed as a major benefit (although perhaps short-lived, as the RLMT’s days look numbered as the MAC recommends the RLMT be abolished).
2. Roles on the list are given priority in the monthly quota for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorships (RCoS) for overseas hires. Immigration law sets an annual limit of 20,700 RCoS, divided into monthly allocations, with more RCoS available in April and fewer available towards the end of the year. These requests are considered by a Home Office panel each month, and where demand for RCoS exceeds the number available in any given month, requests are prioritised using a point-scoring criteria. Roles on the Shortage Occupation list are awarded 320 points. However, the annual quota may soon be consigned to the history books, as the MAC recommends this should also be abolished.
3. Roles on the Shortage Occupation List are exempt from the salary settlement thresholds, which may prove to be an advantage, even with immigration reform. The salary settlement thresholds is often overlooked by employers, who focus on the immediate salary thresholds on recruitment, and much of the discussion around immigration has focussed on the £30,000 minimum salary threshold for new entries from non-EU countries to the UK.
However, in our experience the vast majority of international skilled workers come to the UK with a view to settle, and will be looking for salary progression that allows them to meet that goal.
Currently, employers are required to pay a minimum salary of £35,800 to employees who have been on a Tier 2 visa for five years and now wish to settle. The “settlement salary threshold” increases annually: for those who arrived this year (from April 2019) who will qualify to settle in April 2024, the settlement salary threshold is currently set at £40,100 at the end of the five-year term, with the threshold rising in annual increments in each of the five years.
If an employer is unable to meet this salary cost, they will only be permitted to employ the international staff member for a maximum period of six years. The international staff member would, at the end of this six year period, be required to switch into a different immigration route or leave the UK and wait 12 months before returning, a requirement known in immigration parlance as “cooling off”.